The features of your face are juxtaposed so splendidly. The soft white tint of your skin deepens your coal black eyes and breathes life into that thick pair of watered-down red lips which, on another face, would appear pale and listless. With such a constellation – that divine triangle formed by your eyes and mouth – you really need no other properties. Your heavy blonde hair, for instance, is as irrelevant as is the rest of your body (most of which, incidentally, I cannot see; it is hidden from sight under the table, below the newspaper and coffee-stained cups).

I have been secretly taking you in, following that triangular trail with the feeling that is similarly produced when one looks down deep into a gorge, surrounded by nothing but earthly green and brown below and blue and gold above; distance and beauty extending infinitely far and wide; that warm spluttering feeling in one’s chest that seems to scream for movement – experience it all! at once! – and yet one cannot move, one simply cannot decide in which of the billion directions to leap, so one remains standing in dumb awe with a burning chest.

I finally settle my gaze and rest it on your left eye (I cannot look into both your eyes at once). It amazes me that this apparently two-dimensional image, a circular palette of light and shadow, can draw me into such depths and drown me in its pitch black waves. My only impulse is to throw my body against these waves and to reach, at last – drenched and exhausted – their source.

But what do I see? It is only a hint, a mere shadow, inchoate, easily missed but present nonetheless in that left eye of yours: sadness. It is there, I feel it, and as I pull back from the waves to reexamine your face I sense it, too, on your lips. I refuse to call it a quiver – that tired and overused romantic expression. Let it be a shudder or a shiver, if we must name it. Now what could it be? What is the cause of your sadness, what lies behind it?

Perhaps you were a stuttering child, stammering your lonely way through school, red-faced, embarrassed, insecure, and spared not even by your looks from the mockery that barred your entrance into the world and forced you back into yourself, ultimately unable to crawl out of your mind into the…

– No, you are ordering your second cup of coffee in a voice ringing with sweet assurance. I was wrong, there must be another reason. Maybe you revealed yourself as yourself to another being, offering the only thing worth giving in this world only to be rejected, leaving you in the days that followed with nothing but hot tears and a dry heart, only later forcing yourself into a frantic search for a kind soul to restore your faith – in yourself, above all in yourself! – but knowing, all the while and painfully knowing, that only in innocence can one give oneself fully…

– But, no, that cannot be true either. How has it reached me only now, that shimmer of gold on your finger? So you are married. Could it be that you share the fate of so many beauties, that you attracted not the sensitive, submissive aesthete (pathetic!) whose desires are so nearly satisfied by simply being in your presence; but rather that you attracted and were won over (here lies all the difference!) by that crude man of action, the kind who makes things (women included) his, who controls sooner than admires his environment, and that you have fallen under the spell of the demon that afflicts so many of these men – jealousy – so that you never feel comfortable outside, with other…

– But that must be your husband on the phone, and the spirit of your conversation was light, easy, happy. But I saw that shadow, I am sure! Maybe I should redirect my eyes in order to refresh them with another image. To change the scenery, as they say. The clouds are exceptionally dark today, and there are surprisingly few people on the street. It will probably rain soon… But what is that reflection in the window? Is that really my face? Am I really that miserable creature with the sunken cheeks, the deeply ridged frown, and the watery eyes?