Tuesday, January 28, 2014

rush hour crush

On my ride home today a girl standing against the wall caught my eye through the crush of rush hour bodies.  She was wearing a shiny burgundy jacket, and boots of a slightly darker color but similar sheen over dark translucent tights.  She was wearing earphones, and looked incredibly sad.  I would say with near absolute certainty that she lived alone.

I'm not sure why I was so sure about this last fact, but it stayed with me as the train zoomed under the Transbay Tube and then pulled itself up onto the tresses over West Oakland.  The thought filled me with a sad but sweet melancholy which was likely amplified by the fact it was January, just after dusk, and on a Monday to boot.

For a moment I looked around the train car, and wondered who else may have been going home by themselves (assuming I was right about this particular woman at all).  I pictured practically everyone else on our car going home to boyfriends and girlfriends, to husbands and wives and children, even to fathers and mothers (this is the Bay Area after all; it's not cheap).  She seemed not to fit, in a world by herself (along with her headphones and those shiny boots and jacket).

While she was not exceptionally attractive (it was not exactly that kind of temporary infatuation, I don't think) something told me that if she were out and about, with friends, perhaps with a lover or a partner or a date, she would appear transformed.  I could imagine her radiant.  Does sadness cast a veil that covers us, or does joy create a light that makes us beautiful?

Of course, there's a very good chance that I was just attracted to this sad girl, and was rationalizing it in a quasi-academic, romantic (19th century, not the 21st) way that helps me to think about women.  I wondered, in a half-crazy sort of way, whether I would have found it within me to make a move, if I were returning home alone myself.

Thinking about this woman, with her shiny burgundy jacket and downcast eyes, I remembered various women I have known who lived alone (even my wife, when we first met).  For a moment, I felt something that was suspiciously like empathy.  I do not know where such a feeling could have come from, because I myself have never lived alone.  Still, as the train sped back underground and the dark lavender-tinged sky receded up and away, I could imagine what it would be like to return to an empty apartment, especially on a unseasonably warm January night, such as this one, just after dusk, and on a Monday to boot.  Pop in a movie, bundle up against the dampness, perhaps pour a glass of wine... it wouldn't be so bad really.  Then again, the whole idea is probably much more romantic in the imagination of an emotionally sensitive guy, one who would surely swoop in and offer her company, thus removing the veil or kindling the light, whichever of the two ended up being the case.

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