I saw him standing there.
A striking figure, silhouetted against his car.
Instantly, I knew that used to be me.
“Namaste” I whispered the greeting silently in my mind, acknowledging our oneness in that moment.
There was a bustle all about him. But he didn’t notice, nor would he have cared.
There were people standing around, in proximity, but far enough away that he paid them no mind.
He was in flow state. All his senses heightened.
The concentration fierce on his face, etched by the taut tension lines pulling his arched brows together in the middle of his otherwise smooth forehead. His eyes narrowed in focus. Seemingly glazed over to the outside world while simultaneously fixed on his task. His pupils so dark they blazed with dizzying brightness. The pulsing of his jaw, as he clenched and unclenched, a visible metronome of his internal ready state.
Fight or flight. I recognized it, instantly.
The sinewy muscles of his forearms visible under his dark skin, rippling like the repeated sine waves of a raging ocean building force before a rising storm, itching to spring into action, itching to go on command.
I watched him from a distance. Riveted. Remembering a time in the past when that was me.
When I would take that stance against the unseen enemy. Fingers coiled into a loose fist. Ripe with power. With potential.
Would he strike first, or wait for that moment, that inevitable moment, where he would react in response?
What was his plan? Has he thought it out? Had he been there before, in that moment, that precipice of decision/indecision, between action/inaction, that moment before the point of no return?
In my mind, I looked back at all those times in my youth when I had found myself in those situations.
The times when I’d erred. Done wrong. Chose to act at the wrong moment. The violence bubbling up inside me. The rage and shame. The harsh self recriminations. Too soon. Too late.
I watched him, my forgotten youth my companion in that moment.
Reminded of those times when life was so much more complicated, untinged by wisdom from having lived an uneven life. An odd life.
I watched. Waiting. Wondering. How would this young stranger fare in the face of such an age old challenge?
That was the first one.
I could see the crushing defeat in his face as his hand went limp. Releasing the fury from his fist. His forearm going slack, along with his jaw, his forehead smoothing out. Tension ebbing.
He’d lost this round. This battle was not his. And he knew it.
Resignation became his overcoat, enveloping him, consoling him.
At that moment, our eyes met. I dipped my head in a silent nod of acknowledgement.
“Maybe next time…” that slight motion conveyed the words just as silently as my Namaste.
He returned the gasoline pump to the holster, shaking his head as he read the receipt in his hand.
Disappointment would be his companion on his drive home.
He hadn’t hit the elusive double zero.