I feel a certain kinship with other patients at the chemo unit. My automatic response is to look directly at other patients and smile, but some are more open than others. There is an art to trying to read whether people feel the need to be very much alone or whether they are just shy. I feel there is a certain propriety to be observed to ensure I don’t cross the line into someone’s private moment.
Last week I was near another young woman in a secluded corner of the unit. She was there with her parents and was teaching her dad how to use his smart phone. I kept stealing glances over at her, but her eyes never roamed near mine. I tried to create a look on my face that might indicate my readiness to connect in case she looked my way while I wasn’t looking. Again and again I looked over, trying to find that right moment. I felt like I was picking someone up at a bar and trying to decide how much to flirt. As much as I wanted to be open, I didn’t want to make her feel like I was stalking her with my eyes.
Finally, she looked my way and I noticed the movement from the corner of my eye. It was time to make my move. I looked up and our eyes met. Bingo. Smiles all around and suddenly a friendly feeling infused our corner of the chemo unit.
That was it, no conversation, no sharing of stories. Just the smile. We smiled again when I left and I felt like had accomplished something with my time. Next time I see her, we’ll be like old friends. Maybe we’ll even talk.