This was difficult for my twenty-one year old self. I had lived and studied in open cultures; cultures where kisses were given upon introduction, where personal space was a bent arm’s length apart, and where smiles rippled over faces as you walked past.
This beautiful country where I was studying was full of gorgeous faces set in looks of stolid concern. Life, even in the best of circumstances, can be tricky, but in an environment of scarcity of daily necessities and an amped up and controlling government, well, no wonder people kept their thoughts to themselves when out in public.
One afternoon I got on a bus to go to my university class. The bus was full and I noticed a mother with her baby. The baby didn’t know to keep her thoughts to herself. She goo-goo’ed and ga-ga’d happily. As the mother soothed her baby, she looked up to see me watching her.
“Beautiful baby.” I mouthed to her and smiled my big smile. The mom shifted a bit and the slightest wrinkle appeared at the corners of her now shining eyes. One of her cheeks dimpled just the smallest amount.
I looked around the bus; eyes smiling, “hello” with only a flicker, a slight dimpling of a cheek, the tiniest nod of a head, crinkles, and smile lines all dimmed by expressive eyes.
And today, with everyone wearing masks, I notice people fluttering their eyes to express themselves, punctuating their emotions with their eyebrows.
Yesterday, I was wearing a mask out walking and I past a woman who lived in our neighborhood. The corners of her eyes crinkled as she walked by with her dog. I crinkled back at her, grateful for my distant summer of reading eyes; eyes, not only the mirror to our souls, but a bridge to each other.