29 January, 2006

So young

At what point in your life does the ability to act unselfconsciously slip out of your personal armoury? What circumstances lead you to lose that precious gift of selfless innocence, of not caring or even thinking what others might be thinking of you?

There was a couple on the train earlier today who were completely lost in the moment of simply being together. Every tiny gesture, every smile, glance or thought, was intended wholly for themselves and nobody else. They were wrapped in their own intimate, impenetrable opaque bubble, allowing outsiders to see all the external manifestations of their relationship, but to only surmise on the extent of their internal emotions.

It was a desperately poignant display of what I'm guessing was either fledgling or endlessly renewable affection. Poignant because of it embodying something I've never experienced myself. Desperately so, because of it happening in such a blithely unselfconscious (but in no senses antagonistic or arrogant) way. They weren't doing it to rub anybody else's noses in it. They had nothing to prove to anyone. All they cared about, at that precise moment, was the fact that they were together. Location, audience, time, place - none of it mattered. She rested her head on his shoulder; he took pictures of her on his phone.

How does it happen? How do you unlearn the instinctive practice of adjusting your behaviour to fit in with those around you? What prompts such an inversion of social niceties? How do you train yourself not to care about any audience of any size anywhere, when all your life you've been drilled to pay attention and fit in and not be so selfish? When and where do you tumble back into that rich, beguiling pasture of innocence and recover the essence of being so young? Probably by not asking so many questions and just letting it happen. And it does happen. At least, I think it does. I saw it today from the outside. I've just never felt it inside.


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