Strangers I’ll Never Know

I’m on the D train heading to Marina Abramovic’s gallery. Aaron is working at the gallery and invited me to go so I grabbed Joe to go with me. I’m not quite sure what to expect. Aaron tells me it’s a blind and deaf improv jam where they take a bunch of people, blindfold them and cover their ears, then throw them all in a room to see what happens. I’m curious to say the least.

Wow. I just left the gallery. It was such a thrilling experience. They have you leave all of your belongings in a locker and then they blindfold you, cover your ears, and lead you by the hand into the space. The man who led me in let go of my hand, gave me a pat on the shoulder, and then I was on my own. I started by sticking my hands out and taking a few small steps. It wasn’t long until I ran into the first person. We bumped into each other and then found each other’s hands. I explored and felt the person’s shoulders and could tell it was a man. We gave each other a squeeze and went our own ways. This process continued with many other people. Some were standing still, some were walking around, some were sitting against a wall, others had formed small groups sitting down in the center. I was nervous about other people’s comfort level in the room. I wanted to touch every person all over but I didn’t want to violate anyone’s boundaries. I wanted to touch people’s faces and try to imagine what they looked like. I really wanted to feel everyone’s size and shape. The body is so fascinating with all of it’s diverse forms. Eventually I started getting more open and playful with the people I would bump into. I lifted one girl off the floor and twirled her then let her hand go. I sat down with a group of three people and held hands with a girl for a while. I bumped into Joe and recognized him by his shoulders. We traveled around the room for a bit until I bumped into this girl on the floor. This girl was by far my most fascinating encounter of the exhibit. As soon as I brushed her with my foot she reached out and grabbed me. I sat down next to her and we began to feel each other. I held her hands and massaged them for a little  before moving my way up her arms. She was so warm. There was something about the openness of this girl that really attracted me to her. She felt my arms and my thighs. I felt her shoulders and her neck. I felt her shoes. Converses. Joe tried to pull me away but I brushed him off and he went away. She ran her hands through my hair then grabbed my hands and placed them on her face. I ran my fingers over her face making out her features then moved them back into her hair. She had long hair that went halfway down her back. I then ran my fingers down her arms and we paused for a second just connected at the fingertips. I had the intense urge to kiss this mysterious stranger. To experience something wild and unknown. I noticed she had a ring on her ring finger but it wasn’t an engagement ring or a wedding band. I became really nervous and my heart started beating so fast. By this time our legs were intertwined and our faces were inches apart. I could feel her breath on my lips. Just then a man lifted up my ear cover and whispered that my friend said it was time for rehearsal. Dammit Joe! I gave this magnificent mystery girl’s hand a firm squeeze which she returned then let her go and was led out of the exhibit in the same manner I was brought in. I was in awe once they had taken off the blindfold and ear covers. I’ll never know who that girl was. I’ll never know her name or what she looked like. And yet, I felt more connected to her than I have felt with another person in a long time. That is what I call fantastic art. Once the blindfold was off, the first person I saw was Aaron who was standing right in front of me. He smiled, hugged me, and told me I did great. I wasn’t exactly sure what he meant because it didn’t seem like it was something you could be good or bad at. He told me that I had made a girls day. Apparently the girl that I had twirled early on had been getting stepped on by everyone and no one stopped to acknowledge her. She had been getting very frustrated and emotional but then when I bumped into her and lifted her off the floor and spun her, she threw her hands down and smiled for the first time that someone had cared. Apparently this girl comes to the gallery often and just sits on the floor for hours and hours. It’s funny because it was something that I had done almost absentmindedly not really thinking about what a small gesture might mean to someone else but Aaron said that he had to hold back tears. That truly made my day as well.

Author: Rami Shafi

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