In late 2012 I decided to write a series of unsent letters to people from my past. Rather than choose the person myself, I wrote 100 names onto 100 scraps of paper and placed them in a hat. Each day, I drew a name from the hat and then freewrote that person a letter. In order to break my current melancholic mood – and a particularly nasty bout of writer’s block – I’ve decided to revisit this idea and pluck a few more names from the hat, beginning today with a letter to someone who crossed my path only once, for a mere twenty seconds.
13 March 2014
If I know anything, I know one thing; you won’t remember me. But I will always remember you.
I will always remember your shoulder length brunette hair dancing in the wind. I will always remember your deep blue eyes piercing the darkness of an autumnal Scottish evening. I will always remember the smile that lit up your face as our eyes met that blustery, blissful evening. And I will always remember the wiggle of your cute bottom as you walked down the platform to vanish from my life forever.
Ours was the briefest of moments, no more than twenty seconds out of the millions of minutes of our lives, yet a moment that I will remember always; for you were the first woman – the first stranger – that I had ever had the courage to look in the eye and smile at.
It was September 1997 when our paths crossed. You wouldn’t have known that I was a runaway, that I had fled my familial home in search of myself. You wouldn’t have known that I’d spent the day roaming the wilds around Loch Shiel, soaking in the atmosphere of the most beautiful location I’d ever visited. You wouldn’t have known that social anxiety was wreaking havoc on my life, rendering me unable to look people in the eye. And you certainly wouldn’t have known the momentous nature of the smile I gave you.
All you would have known is that an overweight man, flushed with bliss, overflowing with ecstasy, caught your eye on a desolate train platform and smiled at you. And you graced him the gift of smiling back; a smile that has remained with him through all the passing years.
A smile that proved to him that he could make eye contact with strangers; that he could smile at people without suffering an anxiety attack; that he may not be quite as ugly and repulsive as he believed himself to be.
Whenever I have doubted myself in the intervening seventeen years, whenever I have questioned whether or not I could (or should) smile at strangers, I have thought of you. A woman who didn’t fling abuse because I deigned to look in her direction, a woman who didn’t recoil in horror at my presence, a woman who graced me the gift of happiness, even though you knew not who or why I was.
So, my dear FLWTCB, even though I don’t know your name, even though it’s unlikely you’ll be able to decipher the cryptic moniker I have given you, should you ever read these words and recognise yourself, I just wish to thank you for making that mere boy feel a joy unlike anything he’d experienced before.
For giving me a moment that, however brief, will remain with me until the day I die.
With love and thanks,