“Have a good rest of the day!” I said as I reached for the door and hefted it open. She smiled faintly and nodded, making a small humming sound as she did. I stepped through the open door and made my way down the hall to the elevator, something about the last minute of my interaction nagging at me.
As the elevator slid down six floors to the main lobby, I realized what it was that had caught my attention about our brief exchange of words as I prepared to leave her room and go to work. I meant what I said, I thought, but how does she know that? She has a packed full day, and it’s looking like a bit much to handle, and I very much hope that the remainder of her day works out to be wonderful. But how does she know that I truly care?
There’s four of us in the elevator, going up. We get to my floor first and I wait for the beige doors to crank open before I step off. “Have a good night, ladies.” I say as I step over the metal elevator threshold. And yet, how do they know that I am sincere?
It’s 9pm and a handful of people get off the train at my stop. I follow the crowd down the platform to the stairs, and push through the metal turnstile to the exit. “Thank you; have a good night!” I say to the women sitting behind the CTA window. She smiles and returns the words, but how does she know that I mean it?
It’s 1am and the roommate and I are both in bed. The city lights streak through the window, and we can hear cars zipping past on the street below. We’re done talking for the evening, and both of us settle into our beds, adjusting the blankets to our own specifications. “Sleep well,” I say as I shrug the blanket up to my ears and sink into the flat mattress. Sighing sleepily, she reciprocates the sentiment, and then drifts off to sleep. But I lie awake a moment or two longer, wondering if she knows that I really do want her to sleep well.
Have a nice day. I hope you’re doing well. Good night. Sleep well. Thank you. Enjoy your evening.
I say these things all the time, and you probably do, too. I say them to strangers, to people I know, to people I see regularly, to people I may never see again in my life. And lately I’ve been wondering if they know that I am sincere. How do they know? How could they know?
But then I began to wonder if I really am sincere at all.