It was three years ago that I unexpectedly stumbled upon what beauty truly meant. At a tender age, impressionable and naïve, I was easily swayed by anything that stood in front of me and thus, having my perception of beauty constantly re-defined. But just like how true love only touches one’s soul once, I realized how the privilege to experience beauty, just pure and simple beauty, is given only once to a person.
Near where I live, there is a beige building lined with a wide and high footpath. Across the street, long and thin trees border the small stretch of field that extends the place. During the winter months, the branches are naked (almost as though being stripped of dignity) and curled into snake-like bodies. The sun rises, but rarely does it bless the bleak days with its light. So, any chance for a fantastic explosion of life to happen diminishes greatly. However, the period of autumn that precedes the hollowness of winter is where I suppose something magical happens. Just like how a traveller finds the greatest pleasure and joy during their journey and within the detours they take than more so in the destination itself, autumn is the journey before winter is reached. The cold is soothing and the warmth charming; you see life slowly shying away from you like how a child hides behind their mother in front of a stranger. It becomes the final chance to experience the vibrancy of life before spring arrives with its fresh and new perspective after months of darkened days.
I was returning home from school during an autumn month in my friend’s car, sitting next to the window on the right. The sun was shining in the most tender way; not too bright that it robs one’s eyes to see anything, but not too weakly either wherein everything seems too ordinary. The trees were dressed with a coat of leaves of varying shades of red as though they were caught in a fire, but didn’t occur to them to call for help. The street was fairly quiet with rarely anyone passing by, except a Man walking down the footpath.
My Father is someone who likes to make up his own quotes and deliver them to people during everyday conversations, but we rarely pay much attention. One such phrase that used to mean nothing to me was: “Every Man has beauty”, but who knew that I would see this maxim transform into reality and perhaps even transform me?
The road ahead slightly curved causing the car to slow down. As it did so, I looked out of the window to see the Man walking down the footpath. And perhaps like the moment in one’s day when everything seems to have come to a halt, my life had paused for a slight instant. The Man was simple: he was wearing a purple jumper and from the car I could make out the soft zig-zag patterns lining the fabric, and the collar of a white shirt worn underneath around his neck. He had paired that with light brown trousers and dark brown shoes. His skin was slightly tanned, hair a little coarse and one could say that it wasn’t his biggest point of concern, and the Man was walking with his hands in the trouser-pockets. As I leaned in closer towards the window, my fingers gripping onto the edge, I saw how the sunlight streaming in through the leaves was playing with the strands of his hair, making me appreciate the different tones of brown that came along with it. The Man wasn’t doing much. Just walking down the path like many other passers-by do on a regular basis. But I suppose, the main difference was that I found that Man, or rather those fleeting moments, to be the most beautiful thing that I had ever seen. The car was driving away and I was turning around desperately just so I could continue seeing that Man underneath the sunlight for a few more seconds, but soon enough, he became a mere dot disintegrating into the distance.
I don’t know why, but after I had come home that day, I felt so incredibly sad and I remember thinking that there wasn’t anything in the world that would be able to make me happy again, but that Man. That Stranger. I felt like a child torn away from its favourite toy and being told that I would never be allowed to play with it ever again. I kept asking myself ‘why did I find him so beautiful?’. It was funny though because I kept on thinking how such feelings may have never existed- and my idea of beauty may still be indefinite- if a few factors were not the way they were. What if I were sitting on the left side and not the right? What if the day wasn’t sunny? What if the Man didn’t have his hands in the trouser pockets? Would I still have found him beautiful? The moment may have never existed and nor this funny memory of mine.
I have spent these past years nurturing this image of a Man walking down a path on an autumn afternoon and I admit that it has perhaps been my greatest inspiration for everything. I imagine talking to him and play out hour-long conversations in my mind. That Man for me has no name, yet I imagine him to have the most beautiful name there is to be had in this world. I wonder what he is doing now as I write this. And if I were to see him again, when will it be? Another autumn afternoon? Or perhaps in the winter when he may be wearing a thicker jumper and a coat? How old will I be and how old would he be? Will I still find him beautiful?
I think I will.