When I was in London, I frequented a small shop called Cromwell News. It was right next door to our hostel. The water was cold, if over priced, and it was open late.
But that's not why I loved it or why I miss it now. I miss it because of the man who worked there. He always smiled and his eyes sparkled in the most cliched way possible. He always asked me questions about how I was and what I was doing. I never asked his name, but he made my time in London better, because I knew he would always smile at me. I wondered if it was just me, or if he smiled at everyone. He did smile at everyone, but sometimes when I walked past the shop, not going in, but on my way somewhere, he would see me and raise his eyebrows in greeting and smile.
On the day before my last day in London, I asked him why he was always so happy. I didn't fully understand his answer (he was from London, but he was Indian), but the upshot was: you have to make yourself happy. I think he said, "There's a war out there" and it was clear he wasn't specifically talking about Iraq or Afghanistan, but the world in general. "You can't let it get to you," he said.
Here was a guy with a fairly boring job (standing or sitting in a fairly small shop, selling postcards and water and souvenirs) and he just seemed to be blissful, in the true meaning of the word.
He said he wanted to go back to India, eventually, but he was content for now. No, not content, happy.
When we got up on Sunday to leave, Cromwell News was not yet open. I never told him good-bye, but I really, really liked him.
I hope I never forget the way his eyes smiled.