Something at First Sight
In that moment, I saw everything: The drops of rain as they dripped off my turquoise umbrella, changing my view of the scene in front before me. I saw the 1999 lime-green Dodge Stratus zooming pass. I saw the rowdy football players inside as they sped past me, laughing and whooping with the joy that can only come from being king of a world that you believe will never change. I saw the leader of the group, not the driver, because driving by that point in their lives had already become something for an underling, not for the leader. No, the leader sat shotgun, and I saw his bright blue eyes pass over me as they sped along. I saw the 2010 grey Honda Fiat behind them, driven by a frazzled mother of four with her golden retriever in the back seat, its wet nose pushed up against the window, leaving smudges that would lead to complaints later from the two middle children, as the oldest was off at college and the youngest could not yet verbalize the ways her mother was failing her.
I saw each and every parked car, and I saw each and every moving car. They formed the background of the moment I knew I would never forget. The dreary skies and light drizzle only increased my appreciation of what I saw in the foreground, I saw her bright yellow umbrella, calling to mind my favorite television show, and I saw her dainty black rainboots. I saw one of those boots catch a part of the sidewalk that rose above where it should have been. I saw the paver of the sidewalk making his mistake, then shrugging and heading home to his wife, for a brew and some television and hopefully, he must have thought to himself, some silence, some peace and quiet after a long day hearing the jackhammers and catcalls of his fellow workers. I cannot express the appreciation I have in my heart for this man, whom I have never and will never meet, but whom I could see clearly in that moment as that dainty boot, containing that perfect foot, ricocheted off the imperfect sidewalk.
As my eyes moved over everything in that moment, hoping to record as much as possible for later reminiscing, it seemed as though I could see all around me. I saw my best friend behind me, trailing as he always did, a result of an injury he suffered on the field we had passed only moments earlier. His knee always swelled up when it rained, and I could see today that it was causing him particular trouble, though he did his best to hide it.
I saw her begin to fall, the effect of the aforementioned cause. I saw the position of every other soul (and the position of the unfortunate bodies who no longer had them) and I knew that I was in position, that fate, which I don’t believe in, that God, who I knew in my heart this girl shared my disdain for, had placed us in exactly these spots at exactly this time so that this moment could happen and could change our lives, once separate, now together, forever. I saw her tight denim jeans, purchased earlier in the week at the strip mall on Route 9, where there was an amazing sale that an experienced bargain shopper like herself just couldn’t pass up. I saw the splotches on those brand new jeans where the rain had hit before she could open her umbrella. I saw the green thread stuck in the umbrella that had caused her to have such trouble in her attempts to shield herself from the rain.
I saw myself in this moment as well, and I saw my feet move forward and my hands shoot out, preparing to catch this gift, this angel. I saw my calloused fingers, and wished I had committed to learning to play the guitar so that I could write a song to truly express how I felt in this moment. I saw myself doing so later, and surprising her on our tenth anniversary with a serenade simply entitled, “Us.”
For I saw not just that moment in that moment, but also our future together. I saw our two beautiful children, saw the anguish on her face during her second go-round, anguish caused by our late arrival and subsequent lack of an epidural, that magnificent aid for enduring nature’s most horrible torture. I saw those children growing up, saw them first trusting us in everything we said because they loved us unconditionally and knew we loved them, then later knowing in their heart of hearts that we hated them and everything we said was both wrong and designed to hurt them. And I saw us dealing with the hormones and the boys together.
I saw in that moment, as it happened, just where I would place my hands to steady her. My left reached for the right arm of her light grey peacoat, purchased for her as an early Chanukah gift by her loving grandmother, who always maintained that as a grandparent she enjoyed all the benefits of parenthood with none of the costs. My right hand would find itself placed delicately on her midsection, neither too high nor too low as to suggest any impropriety. I had noticed the bright blue blouse poking out of her coat, but I knew that if my hand ended up too close to that area, our future together would end quickly.
I knew I would not do so, and that we would watch our two wonderful little daughters become women as beautiful, provided my genes did not mess things up too much, as their beautiful mother. Our first would head off to Williams, and in a continuation of the feuds that had filled their sixteen years living together, I knew our second would head off to Amherst. I saw the puppy that we would buy to fill our house with them gone. I found his bright gold fur all over every part of our house except for our bed. Until I relented, as I would always do when she wanted something, and then the fur would accumulate there faster than anywhere else in that house.
As she fell, I saw for the first time a look of surprise on her face. I saw the dimple, off to the right of her perfectly crafted button nose, which wrinkled pleasantly as the brain a few inches behind it realized the predicament it was in. I saw her almond shaped and ocean colored eyes, saw myself in them upside down. I saw in those eyes a modest man lunging towards his destiny. I saw in those eyes my light brown hair that would gray far faster than her jet-black locks, and I saw the places on my face where the wrinkles would set long before hers ever did. I saw the twinkle in her eye that would happen every time she laughed, the twinkle I would go to great lengths for just to see. No joke would be too contrived, no prank would be too difficult as to stop me from participating, just for a glimpse of that twinkle.
Well not just for that twinkle. For as my hands met their destinations, as I exerted a force and felt and equal and opposite force against me, such that I stopped her momentum, I caught a glimpse for the first time of her smile. I saw the slight gap in her teeth that had made her self-conscious since Billy Barnley had teased her about it in middle school, though I knew he had only done so because he liked her. I saw her pink tongue poke through that gap as she smiled at me.
And I saw that smile as I would see it over the years: genuine and unchanging. I saw as we grew older, as others saw her greying and frail, I would always see her as I saw her in that moment. I saw then why old people remain so dedicated to their significant others, why they can look at each other with such love and affection despite their decayed appearances. For they can always find in those wizened visages the features that they fell for, so many years ago. I saw us growing old, saw us reaching that point. I saw our girls bringing to meet us the men they were going to marry, and I saw in a blink our girls’ girls bringing to meet us the boys they were going to marry.
I saw her regain her balance, and saw her neon-green beanie fall off her head. I caught that, as I had caught her, and looked at her. My friend, I saw, stopped behind me. “Hello,” I said to her, “Are you okay?” And I saw her response before she even began it, saw her larynx begin to form the words after being signaled to do so by the neurons in her brain that fired excitedly and helped her lips and tongue and pearly white teeth produce: “I’ve never been better. Thank you.”
Ian Mark is a sophomore at NYU. In high school, he wrote articles that appeared in the Newton Tab and Boston Globe Magazine. He is a former staff writer for the Washington Square News and a member of the editorial board there. He grew up in Newton, MA. Any comments regarding his work can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.