It’s been a while since I’ve really looked at the other passengers on the subway. Maybe that’s what winter does to you – it numbs you. Or maybe I’ve just been tired of people and there are too many around you on the train. You’d think I’d be used to it by now.
Well, my vision lifted this morning, probably because it’s supposed to reach 58 today and my bones are aching for some sun.
I took the E-train, a new blue car. It seems like all the cars are now blue-benched. The changeover happened while I was hibernating. All my favorite orange benches are gone.
I almost didn’t get on the train. It was packed. I tried two different doors before I stopped just outside the last one and, looking in at a space that could fit maybe two more people, debated on whether to go in or wait for the next train. I stepped forward as the doors closed, pushing me further in than I wanted to go because my backpack was still on and I hadn’t had a chance to take it off. (That’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it.) A young woman to my left had her back to me. She was reading a book and taking up an additional foot of space with the hardcover. There aught to be a law against that. I reached over someones head and grabbed the center pole. My book was in my hand but I couldn’t get to it. There just wasn’t any room. I made eye contact with three people and looked away after each one, smiling half-heartedly. A large woman in a bright red wool coat came in behind me and we all accommodated her space as she took central pole position right underneath my arm.
I looked across the car towards the other door and saw a young woman in business attire with wispy hair ruffled as if it had been pushed about by the wind. She was reading the Dailey News and making little sounds as she read, pinching her cheeks in then puffing them out, then biting her teeth together – a veritable orchestra of tiny sounds and small dramatic movements. I couldn’t tell what she was reading so I shifted a bit around the large woman in the red coat in order to get a better look. It was either movie reviews or the obits. Without large headlines to see or my glasses, I couldn’t tell. My glasses were in my bag and my bag was inaccessible. I watched her face as the orchestra of twitches, grimaces and frowns continued.
Stops came and went. The orchestra played on. Finally in an especially crowded moment I lost sight of her. The woman in the red coat looked up at me – I was a little too close to her so I moved back. My backpack poked into someone behind me. “Sorry,” I said over my shoulder. I looked back but tall heads and reaching arms obscured my view.
At the next stop, 42nd street, most of the car left in a giant exodus of folding papers, closing books, and iPhone and cell button pushing fingers. I saw the back of the woman’s head and her wispy brown hair, then a flash of the paper under her arm, and… she was gone.
I looked around me and found myself free of most of humanity -the car practically empty. The woman in the red coat was gone. I had the pole to myself. I opened my book on Iyengar Yoga and read. Although there were now seats empty, I stood the next two stops and got off on 23rd. It was still cold outside and windy. I’d worn a spring jacket, like an idiot. Maybe it’ll be 58 later in the day, but right then it was still pretty damned cold.