It was in a railway station, five levels below the Earth’s surface, in Vienna, Austria. The train was crowded. Slowed down, stopped. The doors opened. People pushed each other. There were no smiles. It was winter. Cold, dark, damp Austrian weather. We matched our clothes to the weather. I moved along with the crowd, small steps. I felt uncomfortable. Like a stranger in my own hometown. I felt the unhappiness and the emotional distance all around me. I was like everyone else. I stepped out of the train onto the crowded, narrow platform. That’s when I saw the guy.
I can’t say if he was good looking, or handsome. That wouldn’t be the point anyways. But he had long, thick, fair, blonde hair. Not particularly well groomed. Can’t say he looked freshly showered either. But the color of his hair was stunningly vivid. And he had absolutely healthy looking skin. Radiant. An unusually upright, yet relaxed posture. Lightly dressed in just a pressed shirt, no jacket. Long trousers, light footwear. He was tall. His age? Maybe in his late twenties. Or mid thirties. Can’t really say. His steps had a smooth spring in them, his walking looked effortless, almost like as if he would be floating.
I couldn’t help but to stare at this guy. I stared at him like any sane person would stare at a brand new Aston Martin DBS or Maserati GranTurismo Sport, if it came into sight right in front of them, suddenly. I don’t know what it was. He looked… healthy. Like, really, really healthy.
He had a little bit of panic in his eyes. That’s when I noticed: everyone, I mean literally, EVERYONE, was staring at him. The whole sad, slow moving crowd had one visual target. As if he was an extra interesting TV commercial, or something.
Back then there were no face masks. I could see the puzzled faces all around. People knew they were staring. In Austria staring at strangers is considered being offensive. I could see that conflict in their faces. But they couldn’t help it either. It seemed like everybody knew that they were staring at that guy, but nobody knew why they were staring at him. The whole scene felt like straight out of the movie „Inception” (the one with Leonardo di Caprio, where people in his dreams would turn and stare at him).
For a day or two I was wondering if I could ever achieve this level of healthiness myself. Then I discarded the thought. There’s just no way. Ever since, I’ve not seen a similarly radiant, healthy looking person again. I’ve probably passed-by half a million people in my life. Maybe more. But so far it was a one-of-a-kind sighting.
I told this story numerous times, right after it happened.
I was taught not to use absolutes. But nobody took my account at face value. People would discard this experience as exaggerated. „Well he was the only one not dressed in black, probably was on a stop over from Italy or Spain.” Quick to jump in with an explanation. Some would even throw me an offended look after hearing this story. Or would not listen at all. What an odd story.
I stopped telling this story. Haven’t told it to anyone for almost 20 years.