When Eyes Refuse to Meet

by Esther Suson

A few days ago, I was walking in Market-Market as I always walk through a mall: attention on nothing but the goal. This time around, the goal was to get through Market to Serendra – I prefer the comfort of walking the aircon route from Every Nation to Fully Booked on High Street.

Attention on nothing but the goal means walking around everything without disputing the path, and being politely uninterested in the human distractions taking the form of salesmen and salesladies.

A saleslady held out one of those perfumed pieces of paper and said, “try mo, ma’am,” as had some dozen before her. I smiled and shook my head, glancing but not making eye contact. Then I looked again, because I noticed that she had most probably not seen my smile – she had not looked at my eyes at all. While speaking, she had not met my eyes, but simply stared somewhere over my head, and withdrawn her hand when it was obvious I wasn’t about to respond.

It…shook me, in a way. A number of salesmen and salesladies may not necessarily like what they’re doing, but they still look one in the eyes, with a smile.

It was weird, when that was omitted. It was like taking a look behind the eyes and smile of every salesman and saleslady I had passed. That dull weariness, hopelessness, tiredness, contempt for self. I’m not saying it’s like that for everyone, and for sure certain skills may be honed in that job.

This post stops at description and fails at reflection. I could add all my thoughts on society and economics and the rest, but that would just be pretentious. My thoughts did not go far past sympathy, and all I could do, at the end, was note and emote.

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