She sat directly across from me on the subway this morning.
I didn’t notice her until the last three stops even though the car wasn’t particularly crowded. A young, well dressed woman (not much older than either of my daughters), her eyes red and flooded with moisture, obviously trying hard to focus on her surroundings rather than anyone or anything near her. Her mind was clearly in some other place.
Whatever the cause, she seemed to be in great pain. My mind immediately went to some recently lost love. You know, the kind of wound that feels so much like death at that age but on this side of the divide you know with certainty that it will heal. Then I wondered whether she had just been given some bad health news about one of her parents. Or about herself.
I felt myself beginning to absorb some of the pain that I saw reflected through her eyes. It was real and it was profound. But still no eye contact.
When I got up for my stop, she did as well. Likely because I knew that we’d never see each other again, I looked directly into her eyes and told her, choking back some of my own heaviness, “I hope that you have a good day.” Profound I know.
She smiled, thanked me, and quickly returned the sentiment.
It happened that we walked in the same direction for several blocks, neither of us talking to the other or even acknowledging the other’s presence. These things are supposed to finish up by our going separate ways. This was awkward.
I suddenly realized that she might think that I was following her, or might even try to hurt her, at this dark, quiet, lonely 6 a.m. hour. I quickly began outpacing her so that I was no longer coming up from behind. Minutes later, though, we entered the same building. Even more awkwardness now if we actually had to talk.
The lobby security guard, Mr. George, greeted me as he always does, “Good morning Mr. Tom” as we then mock salute each other and extend our hands.
The young woman was right behind me. He then called out a “good morning” to Miss Rachel, informed her that I was his lawyer – a running gag between us – and she smiled at us both. We then exchanged formal greetings courtesy of Mr. George.
We finally went our separate ways, even if only to different elevator banks, here near Wall Street.
Image Credit: Pixabay
Title Credit: Burton G. Malkiel