I love travelling. Touristic attractions are of secondary interest. My main interest are the people who live in the destinations that I visit. How do those people look, how do they behave, and what perspective on life do they have?
I am not a fan of souvenirs in the form of objects. I do take my own souvenirs, which come as short stories told by a pair of eyes. For example, the story of the candid eyes of the 70 year old taxi driver I met in Lisbon. In a very passionate voice, he told me about the general Gomez da Costa – my introduction to the history of Portugal. I couldn’t understand most of his story since my Portuguese is quite poor. But the most important story was the one spoken by his eyes – compassionate and humble; they spoke of a life of struggles. I would have wanted to know what kind of life he had. In the end, I was just happy to have been touched by the humbleness in his eyes.
I was in a metro in Paris, on my way to the Sacre-Coeur Basilica when a young man, aged between 25 to 30, stepped in the metro and took a seat right opposite to where I was sitting. He looked into my eyes with the intensity of his witty hazelnut eyes. “I’d like to know you”, his eyes said. I blushed and looked away. In another life or at another moment in this life, I would have dated him.
In our latest trip to Athens, during the first breakfast at the hotel, my eyes met the eyes of a middle-aged woman who was sitting next to our table. She looked at me as if with fear (I don’t think I look that bad). She was sitting with her husband (I checked their rings). He was eating with his eyes fixed on the plate. There was no communication between the two of them. She had finished her breakfast first. When he finished his, he stood up without saying any word and she instantly followed him.
The second morning, they were having their breakfast when I entered the breakfast room. Their body postures were the same – she staring in the void and looking as if she was sitting on needles and he was eating, looking at the plate only. My eyes and her eyes met again. For few seconds, she gave a faint smile but then she stopped as if she was doing a bad thing.
The third morning, I met them again. This time, I took a table, which was farther from their table. I could not stand any longer his energy of a grumpy man. But this time, when I met her eyes, I could read, “Help!”. He was her dictator and she was his obeying servant. I would have wanted to go to her and tell her, “Set yourself free, woman! You’ll be happier without him”. Instead, I just gave her the most comforting smile. I wished it was possible to send her with my eyes the strength that she needed to break free.
Of course, I do not know the history of that couple, but I could clearly see that she was like a chained dog. She didn’t know how to carry herself. I can’t save her but at least I’ll be thinking of her.
As strange as it may sound, there are moments when these eyes pop up in my mind. They are the souvenirs stored safely inside me. They come out of the hidden place when they feel they may be forgotten.
According to the common belief, the eyes are the mirror of the soul. In addition, I think that the eyes remind us that despite the fact that physically we are independent human beings, deep inside we are all the same – in search of connecting with other souls.