I’ve looked into my own eyes to search my soul before. But today was the first time I searched someone else’s. It’s amazingly (and disturbingly) difficult to stare intently into someone else’s eyes and hold his or her gaze. The first few times we did it the last few days, we only did it for a few seconds. Already in those times, I felt a deep terror rising within me to and I had to use all my will just to maintain the eye contact.
But today, we leveled up. We had to sit across each other and lock our eyes for 15 minutes. I sat opposite a Spanish. His name is Andreu. He’s one of the most authentic and humble person I’ve ever met.
At first, it was awkward just to stare into each other’s eyes. I don’t know him very well (though it would still be strange if I did I think). I had to force myself just to maintain my gaze and not look past him or glance away.
After a while, the words that our coordinator said started to get through to me. So I started trying to see God in Andreu, and to express God’s love just by looking into his eyes. If I was an artist, I could probably draw his face purely from memory. That’s how intensely we stared at each other. But for a while, we seemed to be getting nowhere. His face was really stoned – he was staring at me open-mouthed and he just had a blank look on his face. I don’t know if that was how I looked too. But from my perspective, nothing seemed to be getting through.
And yet, sometime, somehow, something must have. Because he started to cry. This I have to describe in detail; I could see it all happen, as if in slow motion. It’s one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.
Andreu’s eyes began to light up. You would think that the expression ‘shining eyes’ or ‘eyes lighting up’ is only a metaphor for describing the vitality that we see in others. But today, I realized there’s truly a palpable difference between eyes that have life and love behind them, and eyes that have not. Because Andreu’s eyes changed. I swear I could see his emotions fill in his eyes and gleam. Then they started to glisten and well up with tears, and two single teardrops streamed from the middle of his eyes down his cheeks.
I don’t know how to describe how I felt when I saw it. Awarè – the feeling engendered by ephemeral beauty – might be the word. Sure, that small cold cerebral part of me that I can never seem to get rid of questioned why I wasn’t feeling the same way. But that doesn’t do justice to my own experience – that of intense beauty. It’s like Andreu received so much that he was projecting whatever he received back at me, such that I could have my own intense moment of humanness.
It’s not easy to express the depth of what we exchanged. And an experience like this won’t easily come again. Which is why I will lock away and guard this memory – to remind myself that I found God in a stranger, that I managed to know and love another person even without intimacy, that I managed to see God in the Other.
I’ll try to keep in contact. I doubt I’ll succeed. But it’s ok I think. Maybe this is all we were meant for – brief moments of tenderness, transient encounters of beauty and fleeting relationships – glimpses of heaven.