Lost in the crowd


In Tokyo’s Shinjuku station, multiple train lines and subways intersect, carrying over 3.5 million people every day. Waves of people shoulder past, hurrying, blurring by, always faceless. Once while transferring to another line, I met someone I knew. Just once, while moving through a crowd of millions, I saw a face I knew, one that knew me. Another time, a fellow foreigner stopped me to ask for directions. His was the only face I remember from that day.

One part of Shinjuku Station (courtesy of Wikipedia)

I move through life  in a crowd of moments that are faceless, anonymous, and almost indistinguishable from one another. When I least expect it, one of them stops and looks me in the face, forever changing who I am. Sometimes it is a welcome and familiar face that helps me find my way or whispers words of encouragement; other times it wears the face of sorrow, speaking words I fear to hear. I memorize the contours of that face, take whatever is given, while all around the crowd never stops moving, in its urgent, restless rush. The moment that shatters my life is just another faceless person in the crowd to you, utterly forgotten, yet terribly unforgotten by me. And the moments that changed your life? To me, merely moments blurred into days, unmarked and unknown. We each carry our own calendar of joy and pain, of remembered days and moments, but most of the days are missing, torn off to mark the passing time.


We live our lives in moments, sought out by love, hate, hope, sorrow, comfort, happiness, or death. When you least expect it, a hand reaches out to grab your arm, or a voice speaks your name. You are pressed in on every side, where else can you go? You must stop, receive the word, receive the gift, you must face the moment; and you will remember that face for the rest of your life. Then you are swallowed up once more into that crowd, moving, ever moving, carrying your joy or sorrow home.