I’m leaning against the glass doors, right shoulder on the sticker that suggests I don’t. The passing clouds lift the gray from the seats and the black contrast of the bare trees forgive their navy blue centers. I look out into the cold, enjoying the two stops that run alongside the park, free from the florescent confines of the underground.
I woke up on this train. My train. It was a few months back, the end of fall and another day of work I’d not imagined doing. It was full and I was standing. I had looked up from my book and down the aisle of hanging heads. They were heavy and dropping down into great tombs so massive they couldn’t be lifted from the laps they were laying in. No one spoke. The only sounds were the opening and closing doors, a cough and the ruffling of newspaper. There were only a few heads raised. Their eyes scanned me, but never really looked. My smile terrified them, returning them to their pages.
Recalling my great awake, I look down, trying to remember the pull of my own weighty head. As I stretch the chords at the back of my neck, a tiny black and polished shoe with a white stocking begins to slide slowly towards me and doesn’t stop until it is pressed gently against my own. It doesn’t move. I follow the stocking up to a small girl in a brown and white, plaid school dress. Her black hair is glistening, thick and cut square above her shoulders. Her eyes hold mine and I smile. She smiles back and we start on to the next stop, feet happily together at last.
I’m aware that it shouldn’t feel as awkward as it does. Her curiosity and trust keep me there with her until her exit. Her mom leads her carefully over the gap and onto the platform of an even stiller world. I imagine my reaction had I been sleeping and cringe at the thought of pulling away from her and missing such a beautiful lesson.