The things around us are so easy to miss. This morning on my subway ride to work, though, I looked up from a magazine article and paid attention. First, uptown, before the train got crowded, a fat guy a few seats to my right, placed half of his Cuban sandwich on his left leg, the melted cheese almost touching his jeans, as he texted with both hands. And to my left, a trim, smartly-dressed guy who looked like he stepped out of a GQ fashion spread–skinny legs, red pants, no socks, black suede loafers with an ornate design. He sent a text, too, on a large Samsung smart phone. Surprised to see a SoHo dude like that get on at Dyckman.
Later, a middle-aged mother–Russian, maybe?–and her two boys, both wearing brown coats, not older than ten, her arm around the young one, the one with glasses, pinching his cheeks, holding him close. And the scowling teenage girl wearing combat boots who fell asleep, her head leaning to the side, her face not so angry in sleep, revealing the tenderness of her age.
Then a woman sitting next to me, hard and firm, angling for position. I didn’t want to give up my arm location, established because I was there first. I was finished with the magazine but I didn’t lean over and put it in my napsack, resting on the floor between my legs, because then I’d give up my position and she’d surely take advantage. A stranger, no words, no recognition even, but engaged in silent combat.
Soon it was crowded and I couldn’t help but smile at the young boy with the small head who, packed in his huge coat, backpack weighing him down from behind, looked like a turtle. Or the tall girl with the pom pom on her hat that made her look six feet tall.
And when I got off the train at my stop, there was the short man with the small, tight mouth that I often see, though he’s usually with his wife, who also has a small, tight mouth. They remind me of people whose dogs look like them and it makes me wonder if people are drawn together for similar reasons. Passing through the turnstiles with a school of commuters, up the stairs, a pretty Asian girl wearing a North Face jacket and black tights is at the top of the steps waiting to walk down. She halts and waits. As I move by I turn my head slightly–though never is slightly so obvious when we’re talking about a man–shift my eyes and and take a look. Sure enough she’s got a backside that could stop traffic. Ass for days, the kind that makes men–or women, for that matter–do foolish things. But I don’t stop, I keep it moving. It’s just that I took a moment to notice.