It was summer 1998 in Vienna, Austria. I was on the subway U4 on my way to Schwedenplatz coming from Heiligenstadt, the ride did not take very long. A few minutes later, a woman in her late twenties sat right in front of me: crying silently, her eyes wanting to meet eternity. There was something about her which caught my attention instantly. She had dark make-up on. What smokey-eyes!, I thought. But there was something else that struck me even more: she did not wipe out any of her tears. They just looked like a waterfall with a touch of black ink. Quite a work of art, really.
It must have been totally cruel of me to actually stare at her, and even more absurd to think the following: while I was studying every detail of her face like a painting... I saw something for the very first time: this woman was BEAUTY personified. And for this naive thirteen year-old, finding that kind of radiant beauty for the first time was truly a fantastic discovery and a moment to remember. The woman may have been devastated and inconsolable as she could not stop crying, but the truth was enclosed in the imperfection of her face and the expression of her face. She was so stunning, so ravishing, so incredibly marvelous -- just REAL. She soon found out that I was stalking her and I felt uneasy.
I found it perfectly normal to come up with a sincere SORRY and maybe even say something along the lines of "I apologize for looking. Please don't be sad, it's going to be alright". But instead, I just looked into her wet, dark, troubled eyes and told her: "For what it's worth, for every black tear that you shed, you look absolutely beautiful right now." I believe that she was about to kill me because she startled, and answered: " You don't even know me. I look like a total wreck, and you think that I look good right now?" Apologizing seemed to be the correct and appropriate thing to do at this very moment. I felt like a fool, it was minding none of my business. But on a second thought, I was not trying hard or kidding. I simply, truly meant it: " Ma'am, you have absolutely no idea how beautiful you are. And yes, right now." I half-smiled and was to go off at my stop; and then, I glimpsed a full-blown smile on the woman's face: " Thank you, that was really nice of you. You just brightened up my day."
I will never see her again. I will never know the reason why she sobbed nor find out the depth of her sorrow. I do not even know if she had a shoulder to cry on, which evidently I hope she had. In regards to this woman, my first glance at true beauty personified, I am left totally clueless. And to be brutally honest, it does not even matter.
This is one of the best memories of my early teenage years. Do you fancy it being so cheesy? Well, it might be perhaps, but it is a true (although slightly embellished!) story. What I learned from this brief episode that happened more than a decade ago is that THERE IS NOTHING COMPARABLE to going through our black tears with our family, our friends, our loved-ones and sometimes, even total strangers. Our hearts light up with joy and compassion in a second. And the moments afterwards, people are still there, holding our hand. When we hit the bottom, and believe that it is practically impossible to reach the top again, we may lose sight and hope. But God cares in ways we'll never fully grasp, because when we do forget -- even just for a split second, we get to meet them: what I call Earth Angels. They run around all day, every single day, and they are there for us when we need them the most, when we least expect them. They care... and more importantly, despite our deepest black, troubled tears, they can still see beauty in us.