“You can read people? How does that help?” she asked.
“I like to observe. It helps with the craft. Acting that is.” he always maintained eye contact while speaking.
They were sitting at the corner table away from the crowd. The bar towards the left. The bartender was busy trying to get the orders right during happy hour. She found it strange that they called it ‘Happy Hour’. People drowning away their miseries in a pint, trying to buy joy on a one plus one offer. Maybe, that’s why it was called Happy Hour.
A large noisy group of the after-work crowd gathered opposite them. There were a few people who appeared to be on their first Tinder dates. People were queuing up to the bar. Cigarette smoke filled the air. A singer strummed his acoustic guitar, attempting a cover of some forgotten pop song.
She looked at him. Sceptical yet curious.
“Details fascinate me,” she responded. “I save them somewhere in my head. The smell, the sound, the lipstick shade… People are full of little details that make them unique.”
They were both looking at the crowd seated opposite their table.
“Body language tells a lot about someone.” He went on. “You can tell a lot about who they are as people from how they stand, sit and move. For example, that man over there…” he pointed to a man in a grey suit. “He is part of that group. But, you can see he isn’t exactly sure where he fits in with the people he is with. But, he is most comfortable around that woman in black. He doesn’t fidget as much when he is around her.”
“Interesting. Although, I do think she is more interested in the guy in the blue T-shirt.” She added.
“Yes. And he seems to be interested in her. But, our man is definitely comfortable around her. And she is too in many ways. Their vibe is more genuine than sexual.”
“How do you do it?” she asked. “What’s your thing? I have seen you walk up to people and make them feel instantly comfortable. Absolute strangers and you do it so effortlessly!”
If they weren’t the artists they were, this would have seemed like an extremely inappropriate exercise in stalking. For now, though, they were ‘watching’ people and each other.
He held his drink and smiled at her. There was an ease in the conversation they shared. Something that can only be elicited from an inherent honesty shared by two strangers. He paused to take a sip from his glass before responding.
“Well, for starters, it’s about getting people to see you. Keep the eye-contact and smile. They will notice you and smile back. People like being acknowledged and validated. A smile puts them off their guard.”
“Well, if a stranger smiled at me I would look in the opposite direction and melt away in awkwardness! This corner, away from all the attention is where I feel ok. It does make sense though come to think of it. I enjoy directing and being backstage than the stardom and being in the limelight.” She felt she was saying this to herself as much as she was sharing this thought with him.
He smiled knowingly.
“I love the limelight. I feel alive on stage or in front of the camera. I love getting into the skin of a character. The whole process of transforming from within, to be a whole new person and yet to retain your essence is rather exciting.”
“I find actors fascinating.” she was intrigued now. “They have a heightened understanding of a range of emotions. It must take a lot of strength to be vulnerable in front of so many people. To tap into that raw emotion lurking somewhere within you and to deconstruct it and share a version of it with the world… It’s something else. It takes courage to be that vulnerable. It takes courage to put yourself out there.”
“I suppose it does… Why do you like hiding so much?” he seemed to be looking right into her now.
“Excuse me?” she felt his gaze and shifted uncomfortably for a while, moving the glass in her hand. Slowly taking a sip and looking into the crowd.
“You are. It’s like you don’t want people to get close to you.”
She was caught off-guard by his remark. She smiled.
“I’m afraid of being hurt. Being taken for granted. Taking time to open up to someone and having that person leave. It’s my defence mechanism.”
“Hmmmm…. So, how do you connect with people when you are hiding your true self?”
“I believe any connection can have infinite possibilities. When you meet someone, you share a part of you with them in the first thirty seconds. You sense their energy and aura. There’s honesty in that moment if you are aware… It’s not love or attraction. It’s that honest energy you feel when you are around someone. The magic of two people being honest with themselves and each other for a brief moment in time.”
“It’s weird isn’t it?”, she went on, “How it’s easier to talk to an absolute stranger about something so deep and personal. Yet, it’s hard to talk to someone one loves”
“Hmmmm….”, he looked at the crowd and then back at her. “Maybe… that’s because when we are honest to someone, we start placing our trust within them. They become a safe space. We get comfortable. Then, we feel that dreaded clench in our gut. That fear of losing this safe space, this person. It’s selfish really. The fears are irrational and misplaced. The fear of not being accepted for who we are, of not being loved. That’s when we start hiding. We stop being honest – to ourselves and to them.”
“Isn’t that what we all crave for?” she asked.
He looked into her eyes.
“What is it that we crave for?”
She looked into his eyes.
“To be seen.”