You can always tell the lonely ones, that look of “I am here alone, and will stay that way”. And the ones who belong to someone but are simply journeying alone. The homeless are always lonely, even when they travel together.
These two were different though. At first I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, and then, the subtle clues gave them away. They stood close, we all do on the subway, but that invisible fence we all master, just wasn’t there. The almost touching but not quite, eyes glued to the cell phones, occupied, but not quite paying attention.
He had a black wool half coat, well-tailored suit, light patterned tie, well groomed face, on point and crisp. He stood out among his compatriots, fitting more easily with the Wall Street majority bantering easily around him in Deutsch and English.
She wore an elegant black wool pea coat that looked familiar to his as if they were close friends out for the evening even though their owners hid it well.
Her hair, undone fingered twists, styled to perfection. Beautiful chocolate skin with understated black thick rimmed glasses, subtle lipstick, piercing eyes that rested casually on her cell then glancing to his chin, falling across his chest, down to his shoes, and back to her cell.
She did it so deftly you wouldn’t have noticed unless you were paying close attention. Much like watching a flower open, it takes time, but happens so quickly.
On his left hand a non-flashy white gold ring with a few small diamonds. Beautiful and simple East Indian artisan work I have come to admire on long subway rides. On her left hand, one simple sliver of a band teamed with another that sports a cluster of gems like a small Maharajah’s diadem.
We all waited for the crush of bodies to bleed out…Christopher St., 9th, 14th… whoosh. He disappeared, and she brushed past me into the middle ground that was filling again, as the morning entertainment flowed in, polite, singing 5 part harmony, a Capella, gospel.
They moved through our car, on to the next, searching for a connection that would bring some cash.
23rd Street, last stop before end of the line. Most of the car empties like the parting of the Red Sea, and there, right across from me, they are sitting, on an otherwise empty seat close together, eyes locked on their cellphones. Periodically they move their shoulders, coat elbows brushing ever so slightly, pretending to not notice each other.
That one glaring omission giving them away; “there are empty seats on either side of you, no reason to stay that close.”
Her eyes meet mine again, and my eyebrow lifts, and a slight smile breaks my face, she looks down quickly, then back up, then down again. “33rd Street, last and final stop.” The announcement blares, she exists right, and he crosses the car and exists left… Hmmm, maybe I was wrong, but then…
Then she crosses back through the cars in front of me in a near run, emerging 4 feet behind him, I see her body relax.
He keeps his head looking forward, briefcase close, she falls into lock step behind him, mirroring each stride, never moving closer than a stride away, never falling more than a stride behind.
They cross in front of me again headed for the New York Metro Subway, a partial knowing smile on her lips, his face locked in concentration, glancing slightly, ever so often, from the corner of his eye, to where she is.
– dahlia holmes
(Recollection of a morning PATH ride)
Monday, December 8th, 2014. 11:28 am