He sat down quietly after hanging his plain grey coat as my wife appeared from the kitchen to say “hi”.
“That’s our special treat for you today,” she winked proudly. “Make a guess. What does it smell like to you?”
“It smells…” paused he, “like a family.”
As his eyes broke an innocent smile at my wife, I saw she was as stupefied as I was by the unexpected answer. It befuddled me how someone could utter something so endearingly beautiful yet at the same time so full of pain. My wife must have sensed that gravel in his voice as it betrayed his genuine message and kind smile. The quick remark sounded like it came from someone who had been deprived of the basic things in life that almost everyone around had but him. I had heard rumours about how he had lost everything years back. Some said his family was killed in an accident. Some said it was murder. Different stories flew around but he had never actually told anyone the truth. It’s appalling how dark people’s imagination can become when presented with a mystery about someone they know.
“Thank you, Sam. That was pretty.” My wife replied with a bright smile. “I’m going to prepare the table. You two can take your time out here before dinner is ready.”
I recalled reading somewhere that “Sam” means “bright sun”. The man in front of me looked just like what his name implied with his brilliant eyes and benevolent smile. Nevertheless, his voice always gave his true self away. Behind that considerate tone, there was just the opposite of a “Sam”.
“Please don’t get me wrong,” Sam started a conversation all of a sudden while I was still drown in my thought, “I don’t often say such thing.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, I really mean what I said earlier.”
I kept quiet, patiently waiting for him to collect his thought.
“I’ve met a lot of couples,” continued Sam, “Some have been married for years. Some for months. Some have been childhood sweethearts while some have been together for almost a decade without getting married.”
“I like to observe the way two people ‘in love’ treat each other, you know. The thing that reveals the most about people in a relationship is the way they look at each other. If you look closely enough, it reveals almost everything there is about where the couple is heading.”
“The sad thing is, most of the times I see the two people looking at each other but they aren’t seeing each other. Behind the loving tone and the warm gesture, their eyes show a different story. They aren’t fully into each other. I can see those eyes making contact but only on a superficial level. And it pains me to see such tragic things. If two people can’t connect completely when their eyes meet, they aren’t as in love with each other as they think.”
“You and Lauren were different, though. I caught that split second when you two greeted each other through your eyes. I thought I felt something profoundly different there. Then the smell of this place invaded my senses. After I made the comment I saw you two looking, no, ‘seeing’ each other again in your own dazzled state and I knew my intuition was right. You both were so connected to each other at that moment I felt like I was an intruder. Perhaps my choice of words then wasn’t accurate. It didn’t ‘smell’ like a family. It ‘feels’ like one.”
He looked at me with yet another genuine smile. How can a person smile that honestly when he feels deprived of the happiness others have found? I waited for him to finish but he didn’t. Still, I knew what his last sentence would have been.
“But it isn’t mine.”