The People We Never Knew

I looked at her across the school playground. She had glowing brown eyes and an infectious smile. Her hair was covered in a bright head scarf that reminded me of my friends back home. She was smiling at her little girl as the bright summer sun beat down and girl danced around on the green grass. Suddenly a fresh wave of home-sickness hit me. I miss my friends, I miss connecting to somebody, anybody.

I look again at the cheerful woman as I hoist Jo from one hip to another. A breeze carries her words to me and I hear the familiar whisper of an exotic language. My exotic language, and in a very similar dialect to where I come from. Too many signs are nudging me, telling me ‘Go, get to know her.’ Still I hesitate, characteristically shy, waiting for a better opportunity.  In a burst the school doors fly open and excited, happy kids shoot out in every direction. Adam is late, as usual. But I see her walking up to slight, handsome boy.There is a frail look about him but he seems to be only a year or two older than Adam. He’s probably in Grade 3. She hugs him and their heads gather together with shared love. As she looks up, she catches my eye and offers a tentative smile. I smile back and turn to Adam, who has just arrived. It’s time to go home.

Over the weeks, we cross paths and share smiles, but nothing more. I keep on trying to muster up the courage to go say hi. I worry about rejection. Or disinterest. And I never make a move. I keep looking for her every day, thinking that this will be the day I connect. But I stop seeing her. Maybe the cold and snow make she her wait in the car. Or maybe I’m not looking hard enough. Either way I can see her no more.

Today I got a letter from Adam’s school. They informed us that one of the Grade 3 boys who had been previously diagnosed with brain cancer has been getting weaker and weaker an is now terminal. His family all flew East where he can spend his remaining days near loved ones.

It has to be her. And the boy. The handsome smiling frail boy that I saw is dying. Physical pain grabs at my heart. I can picture her happy eyes full of tears and sorrow as she sits by the bed of her dying son. I can see the little girl playing in the other room. Scared and anxious but not knowing why. I can see the father sitting in a dark, dark room trying to compose himself so he’ll smile and laugh in front of their son.

I don’t know what I regret more. The fact that I was too scared to reach out and never got to know this family before they broke apart. Or that I could have been of any help to her when she needed it most. Or that I will never see that happy boy again or watch him play and laugh with my son.

I don’t know her. I lost that opportunity. And I don’t think I’ll ever get another chance. But if I could, I would go back to that warm summer afternoon, walk up to her and say,

“Hi. I just moved here and I’m trying to get to know people. Want to get together sometime?”

 

Written in response to the Daily Prompt: Set It Right.

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4 thoughts on “The People We Never Knew

  1. Regret is always a hard emotion to handle, and hindsight is always 20/20 (as they say). You shouldn’t beat yourself up too badly about not talking to her, you had your reasons at the time… whatever they were. Hopefully this reflection will make it easier to make it different next time

    • (I didn’t mean to sound insensitive in my last comment. Your reasons for not talking to her that first day are difficult to overcome. I know this because I do the same thing all the time.) I had to come back and read your post again because it really had me thinking. I’m not sure about what, though. Very sad indeed.

      • You didn’t sound insensitive at all. And you’re right, regret is hard. I’ve taught myself over the years to hardly regret anything. Yes, in hindsight I know I would have gone and introduced myself but I don’t know if in another real-life situation I would change. After all, I am who I am.

        The whole ‘boy dying of brain-cancer’ thing in itself is sad. It has been floating around my sub-concious since yesterday.

  2. Pingback: Painful Friday | On Life Readings & Cupcakes

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