I know he knew that I’d seen him.
But also, and this is unusual, I knew that he had seen me. Seen me past my physical shape, past my mode of movement, past every stereotype of every kind. He’d seen me.
And, as I said, I saw him.
We were going south on Yonge Street and he was with his mother and younger brother. He was helping his mom with his brother who was fussing in his stroller. He looked up and saw me approaching, instantaneously he did a ‘fat’ gesture with his face and hands. And instantaneously my face reacted. I hadn’t expected it, because it was a beautiful day and I was simply enjoying. My guard was down. He saw my face. He saw my reaction. And then he looked at me, our eyes connected for the briefest of sections and I saw him. Really saw him. And he saw me. Really saw me.
I saw a little boy whose impulse to hurt others who were different was, as yet, unrestrained.
He saw someone, different from him, that he had purposely mocked, that he had attempted to humiliate, and who had felt what he had done.
It was over in a second.
We passed them, and I thought that was the end of that.
But it wasn’t.
We were approaching the small mall we had been headed too and just as I reached out to push the door opener, I saw a small hand rushing to push it for me. I looked at it was attached to the boy who had made the fat face. It was the same hand that had formed a big parenthesis to emphasize the fatness of the face.
Well, I was there first and my hand had pushed the button.
There was a small crowd heading for the same door as I was and I had to be careful, his mother, his brother and he slipped by me and into the mall. They were headed to the escalators I was headed to the store directly to my right. I turned the chair to head to the store and I saw him break from his family and race to the door of the store, which, although already propped open, he held for me anyway.
Something was happening. I think that, in that moment when he saw me, when he saw the results of what he had done, something changed. I think he knew that I had seen him. I, a person who had been affected by him. I, a person who now knew something about him. I, a person whose opinion of him didn’t matter in one second but then mattered a second later, had seen what he was capable of.
I don’t think he liked being the person that I had seen.
I don’t think he wanted me to go about remembering him as someone unkind and with a penchant for being instantaneously cruel.
So he wanted me to see him again. See him doing something kind. See that there was more to him than I might think. See that he was someone who was working at growing into compassion and generosity and welcome.
And I did.
I stopped for a moment.
I said, “Thanks for holding the door, I appreciate it.” It didn’t matter that the door didn’t need held. It didn’t matter that I had not possible need of his help. It did matter that he tried.
No, he wasn’t looking for redemption or forgiveness from me.
He was looking for it from himself.
My guess is he’ll be a fine man one day.