She appears to him across the aisle half full of people. Previous thoughts are lost forever as he feels the familiar rush of blood ripple across his face. A terrible gift, the susceptibility to being struck by beauty – instantly and deeply, fully and irresistibly.

A thin, oversized cardigan hugs the girl’s slightly stooping shoulders, long, slender arms, and small breasts. Only part of her soft face is visible. She is listening to an elderly companion, some grandma or aunt, who took a seat next to her while the girl remained standing in the busy bus. There is something so guileless about the way she stands there, something so open and honest in how she holds herself and gestures with her slim wrists. He is overcome by a feeling of tenderness.

Her light grey eyes with dark rings around the irises are focused on her companion, and he has to suppress a sting of envy for this old woman who can see into them so freely. He cannot let her eyes go – they shine with such kindness. Such depth. The bus melts around him and becomes grey; he can no longer bear it and redirects his gaze out the window, where he sees the world stoop over with dark rings and grey, grey, grey.

He does not realize that, while staring out the window, the girl was looking at him, so that when his eyes return to the bus, she is ready to meet them – and she smiles. He is unprepared; too deep inside himself and the idea of her, he does not return to the world quickly enough to smile back. He realizes it too late, when she is already facing her companion.

Full of self-loathing and regret, he decides to leave the bus at the following stop and to walk the rest of the way. Where his thoughts were rich and various before, he now finds himself circling around a single one. “How could I have missed that chance?”