It was the first time, and it wouldn’t be the last.
Jawline sharp as a sword, as had always seemed his words. His strong brow impressed an irking sense of power onto his face, even without a furrow, as if encasing his message in harshness before emitting it. Lips pursed, stiff with pride: an appropriate vessel for his apparently constant slander. It was the face of a man who seemed to believe himself superior – and the assertiveness to all his expressions ascertained that impression.
But now, had it been the lighting that changed? She perhaps had never paused to look for it, but in the almost-midnight light was noticing how those lips actually seemed quite soft, and those words they were procuring combined in speech that was less dictatorial in character than what she felt accustomed to from him. Words laden with sensual provocations as he half-whispered, half-barked his opinions. The presence of fierceness was still undeniable, but something – truly, had it been her or another factor? – provoked a shift in tone, at the very least to her ears and mind. To her, it suddenly seemed obvious that his intentions and heart were impregnated in a sort of innate goodness, that for whatever reason she had been immune to before.
The group sat in a circle near the western wall celebrating a sort of closing ceremony, as they each shared their reflections, sensations, and realizations. They were largely feeling in tune with one another; thought-provoking ideas were being shared and the interconnectedness was palpable. Thus they were mostly idle to the passers-by, a crowd comprised of orthodox ashkenazi – two of whom caused two moments of disruption when they instructed the pastor to move the group farther from their place of worship, as our backs turned toward the wall is an offense to them -, while others ambulated in hijabs, traditional African garb, kippas and tacky American clothes… There is a certain magic in the relative harmony with which life unfolds in a city so diverse in culture and religion, and with which the people found in Jerusalem at any given time receive communion and celebrate their faiths together (at least to the eye of this tourist).
Anyway: he spoke of an always wanting to be useful to others, and how he constantly asked himself what he could do that others may not think of for themselves but would benefit from. Such is the way in which he described his motive and purpose in life. It seemed so just and honorable. Words elude an adequate description because the shift was powerful and unexpectedly swift; only now she could start to recognize that there was a beauty to him warmer than his facade implied (as they do), richer and more alive than what had seemed cold as stone. He had more than one dimension – not a novel thought, but a common misconception nonetheless. And for the first time, she gulped, to pass the heartburn and butterflies.
She sat on the plane on the way home and marveled at how misleading our impressions of people may be, and how wonderful it is to be wrong about people. In order to optimize our social interactions we often rest on clichés, and fathom opinions of people based on insignificant moments of their existence, whereby it coincides that our attention is paid solely on their actions. We thus have just enough information to pass a judgment on the correctness of their choice or the error of their ways. How unjust that to this it boils down to, this is the basis of whether or not we like someone: whether or not we have seen them in action in a way that we agree with more often than in a way we don’t like.
In the midst of analyzing the new agreeable information she had on the softer side of this angular man, she felt thankful. She had seen him be, under different circumstances than she had before, and this had unveiled profound marvels in him, to her. She now returned with kinder facts and gentler moments from which to draw conclusions. For the first time since meeting him, she actively wanted there to be a next time, didn’t want there to be a last time.