The Shortest Distance

Tram stop in Prague, Stresovice. A tall man with glasses in an anthracite woolen suit. A fragile woman with graying wavy hair wearing a pair of worn jeans. They never met – and yet, there is something they have in common. If you’d like to know what it is, you’d just need to look at the sign showing the name of the tram stop. Military Hospital.

It’s Friday evening and it seems that the citizens of Prague are in the luck. The cloudless sky and warm air suggest that many of them will take the opportunity to have a glass of beer in one of the city’s beer gardens, or a glass of wine in one of the bars in the streets of Vinohrady.

At this tram stop on the edge of the city however, the mood is slightly different. Both strangers, who are standing three meters apart, seem to be locked each in their own world. A world that the rays of weakening sunlight don’t have the strength to enter.

A tram approaches. With it, a sweeping wall of sound. It does what the rays of light did not manage. At least for the man. The focus of his eyes changes. As the tram stops, its door two meters on his right, his mind re-enters his body. The lady however, having the door one meter on her left, still seems to be in a place far away.

The door does not open on its own. Instead, a button on each side of it lights up in green. He notices she does not move. Even when she is closer to the door, it’s him who has to open it. He takes a step forward and stretches his hand toward the button. Then – as with a click of a switch – she too comes to her senses. Her hand reflexively shoots towards the button on her side of the door. She hits hers before he hits his. The door opens. She glances at him, as if ashamed for how much out-of-place she must have seemed. He smiles. Then he nods to signal she should enter first. She does.

As the door closes behind them, he breaks the silence with the following two words: “You won.” Her solemn expression gets a crack. She laughs. He laughs with her.

She does not say anything. He does not say anything else. In fact, the two never speak again. And yet – they are not strangers anymore. On that Friday evening, for a short moment, both of them left the bubble of their troubled worlds. On their ways from a hospital, in the rays of weakening evening sunlight, they cut the shortest distance between strangers – and shared a laugh.

Photo by Jodie Walton on Unsplash

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