Wherein Miss O' Brings You Home With Her
New York City, February 23, evening after work
On any subway car, in any moment’s motion, we may find ourselves staring. It doesn’t mean anything. Some faces just need to be stared at longer than others. It doesn’t mean anything. You get caught unawares by a shade of brown, a set of furrows, a mole, a mustache, a nose shape. You spy a generosity of eyebrow so startling you wonder how she copes, and then she catches your eye and grins conspiratorially and you realize she feels beautiful. And you thank god for that.
As the subway comes near to your stop, it is important to put your reading material away, sit up slightly, or lean forward, at least, if sitting. The people standing in front of you will move almost imperceptibly to alert you that they know you will need a path to the door. Their adjustment will in turn alert others, in a microcosmic kind of chain reaction, so that the words “Excuse me” should not have to leave your lips. Any extra silence is golden on a noisy night’s long journey into Queens.
When you have been admiring a standing woman’s shoes, and have not been able to catch her eye to ask about them, you can judge whether or not to speak to her upon exiting by the way she moves for your impending exit. If she puts down her book and stands back slightly, and the subway has not come to a complete stop, you have leave to say, “I love your shoes,” so she can smile, and you say, “Doc Martin’s?” and she says, shyly, “Yeah,” and you say, “Gosh, they’re great,” and out you scoot onto the concrete platform and into the chill night air.
As you head into the downward staircase, you must merge with the round-abouts and the to-your-lefts and all who go tumbling down, making right-of-ways for the left-ways coming-up stroller people. And heading to the turnstiles, you negotiate the all-walking-outs with the least obtrusive move into one of three stiles and thence out, and strategize a circular kind of move around the blue riveted post to avoid a small incoming man fishing out his Metro card and not looking up; and then you swirl to the down staircase and patiently pounce-bounce behind the old man with the too-big case who wants no help, and swirl around again and toward the street, dancing down the treads because you hear no traffic and that means the light is in your favor and then you see the red hand blinking and the 2…1…0 and you hear the starting swoosh from 39th Street headlights; hum; flash. What do you want for dinner? Which way will you go? You have some time to think.
And all the way up 40th Street you are looking for the starlight, star bright to wish you may and wish you might send all the love you have to every person you know out in the universe, and you realize you may have just prayed it aloud, because the short, stocky woman with the flying black-dyed hair and plaid coat, the woman with the shopping sacks and the too-big-purse, turns slightly as you pass, and it’s New York and who knows what she heard or didn’t, even she isn’t sure, and it’s your chance to pass. Apartment lights are coming on along the block, the cars are searching for spaces, and everyone is hungry now. You recall the wine that’s open in the fridge as you slip under the awning lights of the Chinese place glowing yellow and red, and there they say your name and know you don’t want sauce-fork-spoon with that, and no need to waste a plastic bag, because you live just across the street.