At one point I began writing this massive series of love poems; not to some beloved partner or passionate lover, but instead to complete strangers. Looking back, one draws my attention specifically. It was titled “Love Poem to an Emergency Room Doctor,” and it read:
Doctor Julie, you are oh so pretty
with your turned up nose
and my blood on your cheek.
Do you really need to scrutinize my numbers
ease needles through my spine
seeking fluid that isn’t there?
Or do you just like how the small of my back feels
against your rubber gloves.
You and I don’t need protection, pretty thing
we need to kiss beneath
the MRI machine.
They went on and on. “Love Poem to the Man in the Blue Sweater at Meijer”, “Love Poem to the Blondest Bank Teller.” My casual writing project had become something more, and those poems are perhaps the most sincere I have ever written. There was something about those people. It was hidden in their ambiguity, their specific moment in time, and I was no less than compelled to pen those odes. I had accidentally struck some raw nerve in my psyche and BAM, the pure beauty of humanity was screaming in my face, suddenly and singularly.
I believe in falling in love with strangers. I believe in allowing oneself to seek out beauty in a way which nurtures the childhood awe so many have forgotten, and to absorb it within the safe arms of anonymity. Please don’t misunderstand me, I am not suggesting you begin concocting romantic fantasies about the Latina woman playing Sudoku across from you at the DMV. What I am saying is you should allow yourself to simply notice her pure skin, allow yourself to be absorbed by the way the sunlight catches her hair, to wonder what distinct aspect of humanity drives her to arrange numbers on a grid, her delicate eyebrows drawing together in concentration. It is here we can unearth the same joy found in the eyes of both the newborn and the ancient Zen master. I believe that opening one’s heart in this way channels, if only briefly, the most mysterious and powerful aspect of our peculiar species: Love. This is love in its purest and most selfless form, paradoxically infinite and finite.
When the red LED display blinks suddenly and the raven haired Latina stands to collect whatever tedious government document brought her into your sphere of awareness in the first place, even she is unaware, and her light follows her through the double glass doors and out into the Universe.
She is not real of course, only a small piece of fiction created to illustrate a point. And yet she is real, because I have seen her same ethereal power reflected in every new stranger yet. Here, I project myself into my fictional DMV waiting room. My blood is warm, my heartbeat deep, my head swimming with thoughts like, “This must be how God sees his children,” and “Did they see her, did the see?” and I am once again lost in something I still don’t dare to fully understand.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.