Monday, February 16, 2004

Strangers on a Train

I stepped on the train car at three minutes to eight, almost late but no one really notices that. I stood next to the door; the next stop was mine. I leaned back against the rail, my right arm behind me, holding the rail loosely for the one turn that would throw me to the right. As the doors were about to close, the last rider stepped on the train and stood in front of me, holding the opposite rail.

I don't know what it was about her that I found so...fascinating. She was pretty but not striking. Her strawberry blonde hair cut just above the shoulders. She was wearing a burgundy wool coat, knee-length, and below that a dress reached her white ankles. She had a purse and another larger bag, both slung over the opposite shoulder.

The train jerked forward. The ride lasted just over two minutes. During those two minutes, I pretended to look disinterestedly out the window, all the time watching her in the periphery. Then I turned and looked at her, as her eyes met mine.

She smiled. I smiled (no teeth, the self-conscious faux-embarrassed smile) and then looked away again. Then we arrived at the platform. She stepped out first, quickly, and made her way up the stairs to the skybridge over the street.

I was ten feet behind her. She reached the top of the stairs and turned right. I reached the top of the stairs, turned to watch her walk away for a moment, then turned left.

As my dear friend Marie De Salle would say, "Ah, so it is."

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