Pathos of the Momentary Smile

Like nearly all women under sixty she would have deftly
avoided meeting the eyes of an unknown man —
but occasionally an exception happens by chance
and her unconscious skill at avoidance gets instantly
replaced by a human generosity which is either
inherently feminine or gender-trained, as you please;
she glanced at me exactly when I glanced at her
in the store at the mall and so she gave me
that momentary slight smile which implies
Though many men are dangerous, and I do not intend
to suggest the slightest likelihood that you and I will
meet or talk, much less make love and
much less together conceive a sweet helpless child,
still our eyes have just met and in this there is
an undeniable contact between your humanity and mine
and you are probably coping with some difficulties
of masculine humanity while I cope with those
of feminine humanity; and so I wish you well.
Her smile said this
but I did not smile back because —
because guys don’ t do that — because
we are strong and separate and firm and without softness!

So then the next moment had come and we had walked apart
in our two differently inflected kinds of routine loneliness.