Feature

Editor's Letter: Our chaotic times

I lifted my hand to wave, but her head was fixed straight ahead. All I could do was stand and watch as the ground beneath me registered a subtle quake.

I saw a long-lost friend last week. It’s unlikely she was ever lost, and most definitions of “friend” wouldn’t encompass the distant, nameless comity we enjoyed, but I stand by the characterization just the same. Though we never spoke, I used to see her regularly at the start of my morning commute. Middle-aged, perhaps a few years older than me, she jogged north, against traffic—not that there was much at that hour. Her stride was easy, with a kind of singsong quality about it, and as I walked south, on the opposite sidewalk, I would wave and smile. She routinely responded—cheeks blossoming, eyes twinkling, teeth smiling—with a sunniness that could take the chill out of the air. She was a walking—jogging—affirmation of the human race.

When I began leaving the house earlier in order to catch a different train, I sacrificed her company. My new commute, already physically darker, seemed diminished by her absence, as well. Then last week I saw her again. We had traded sides of the street, but she was again running north, in the opposite direction. She had a determined, almost grim, air about her, and her facial muscles appeared rigid. The graceful singsong was gone, replaced by a mechanistic, utilitarian motion. Tension seemed to course through her limbs. I lifted my hand to wave, but her head was fixed straight ahead; she didn’t notice. I wondered if a distant butterfly had flapped its wings, sending tremors through the life of this stranger, changing her forever. All I could do was stand and watch as the ground beneath me registered a subtle quake.

Francis Wilkinson

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