The Subway Girl
- The Subway Girl
The below story was inspired by this koan (Zen riddle) of uncertain origin:
A Zen master holds a stick and yells to his disciple,
"Long or short? What is this?"
Enlightened, the disciple grabs the stick from him,
breaks it in two, and shouts back, "What is this?"
It was also inspired by this ancient riddle:
Q: A line is drawn on sand. How do you shorten it without touching it?
A: Draw a longer line beside it.
Clyde goes to the subway station when he has to go to school. Recently, he noticed a rather pretty long-haired girl comes along at about the same time as him, and happens to take the same train. Out of admiration for her looks and egoistic yearning for her to notice and take interest in him, he looked forward to seeing her.
One day, He was sitting on a long bench waiting for the train when she came and sat on its far left, leaving an empty space between. He wasn't sure if it was his mind playing tricks on him, but from the corner of his eye, it seemed like she looked at him secretly when he wasn't looking in her direction.
At one point, Clyde turned to see her and to his shock, he saw the long-haired girl now seated on the space on his immediate left. It took a few seconds for him to realise it was a different girl with long hair. The first girl was still seated where she was. Suddenly, Clyde was captivated by the second girl, whose hair shielded her face.
The train came. Clyde and the first girl rose from the bench to board it. Clyde felt bewildered, unsure who to pay more attention to - the first girl walking off in front or the second girl left behind. He knew the first girl looked interesting but the second probably too. He stole a glance at the second girl. To his surprise, she looked much more attractive than expected.
There he was all along anticipating to see more of the first girl when a more attractive one came along out of the blue. He almost felt disloyal to the first, as if he had broke some unspoken promise of eternal love to her. He realised how fickle he was, and how unending comparisons will never bring lasting happiness. The funny thing is he didn't even know her.
The next day, the second girl did not appear. The first girl's body language was such that it turned him off. Because of comparison, she didn't look as attractive. The way she moved looked a little ungraceful. His high impressions were dashed. He realised how it was the character of a person, above her form, that determines her true attractiveness.
But upon second thought, he realised that he was still judging by appearances. How could he accurately judge someone's character by the way she moves? It's shallow to label someone you do not really know to be shallow. It's better not to label at all and keep an open mind about everyone we encounter. This is true sincerity. Likewise, he doesn't know what the second girl is like either. Better looking does not mean better. We all know that, but we seldom believe it. That's how superficial we can be.
Clyde didn't like the tension between them. He decided that the next time they make natural eye contact, he will not look away or feel awkward. He will smile a little friendly smile of no ulterior motives - the kind between strangers, though they are neither exactly strangers nor friends. He will just be his natural self, without pretensions or expectations.
What if the second girl reappears? He might do the same. Sexual tension can spoil potential friendship, which is needed anyway, if love is to ever develop. Let's cast away all speculations and know people as they really are. In doing so, we discover more about ourselves, and others. He might even print this for them to see. Maybe they will have a good laugh together.
-the third girl | pic:gettyimages.com