"You inspired me to write about you!"
How did he react?
"Oh, thank you!"
How did I feel?
Complimenting and writing: Two of my favorite things. I don’t know which one of them I like better. First I experience, then I transform the compliment moments into words. I get to relive them. While writing I notice subtleties, celebrate the obvious and filter structures I can learn from.
Today put the process on shuffle. I wrote before I complimented. Or I wrote complimenting, or complimented writing. Or whatever.
On the train I sat across from a elderly man. He was holding a tiny agenda in his left hand hand and noting down words with his right. He wrote slowly. His letters were about 2 millimeters high. After writing a word he took a break and looked out the window for a minute or two. Then he continued. He wore ring on his finger, high-quality clothes, nice shoes. No starving artist. Yet each piece of his clothing was of a different color: Blue, green, red, yellow, brown. They went well together, no one who didn't look closely would have noticed. But they were a rainbow. The agenda on his lap stuck out, too. While the other passengers were busy performing a finger tap dance on their Ipads the man filled his notebook. He ignored the days blanks as if they didn't exist, writing his story all the way from Monday to Sunday. Week after week. His eyes were watery. I caught his glance when he looked up and outside. The light blue in them radiated with space. Watching him made me want to write. I thought, "Why not write about how I perceive him instead of complimenting him?" I liked the idea. Ripped a page from my agenda and got started. I had two stops before getting off. Here's what I managed:
"Er schaut aus dem Fenster. In seinen Augen: Weite. Er sucht Worte, und findet er eines dann schreibt er es mit Bedacht in sein Buch. Buchstabe für Buchstabe. immer wieder setzt er ab und blick nach draußen. Ruhe geht von ihm aus. Er trägt die Farben des Herbstes: grüner Schal, roter Pullover, braune Jacke, blaue Socken. Im Vorfrühling lässt er sie leuchten, wenn alle anderen sie längst vergessen haben." (Schön sieht er aus.)
"He looks out the window. In his eyes: Space. He searches for words and when he finds one he writes it down cautiously. Letter after letter. Time after time he stops and glances outside. He radiates with calm. He wears the colors of the fall: Green scarf, read sweater, brown jacket, blue socks. In the midst of prespring he makes them glow when everyone else has forgotten about them." (He looks beautiful).
The train approached my stop. I got up. He closed his agenda and got up, too. Folding the paper I got off. He was right behind me. I turned around, held the piece of paper out to him, and said "Can I give you this?" He asked, "What is it?" And I said, "You inspired me to write about you." His face opened. "Thank you!" He started reading. I said goodbye and left.
A smile covered my face.
Unlike the last written compliment I paid I did not feel like I escaped. There was a hint of that, sure, but I took it because more than escaping I felt like there was a romantic taste to this. The only thing I regretted was coming up with the last sentence after I had left: Five minutes after our goodbye I figured "He looks beautiful" (Schön sieht er aus.) would be a good ending. If I ever see the man again I will tell him I didn't have time to find the final sentence.
I am really into this idea. I wish I had had the time to write more. I am thinking I want to sit somewhere, maybe a coffee shop, observe someone for a while and then write a longer text about what I perceive. The beauty I see in them. To me this is like a love letter from a stranger. Will report back as soon as I pull it off!