Saturday, December 5, 2009

Mistaken for Strangers

i shuffled onto the train, luggage hanging off me not unlike my great grandmother's Christmas ornaments: heavy and overdone.  I tucked my coffee between my knees and lowered the seat tray with one hand, shook off my jacket with the other all while staring intently at my lap so as not to inadvertently crush the corn-made vessel with my knees and spill the hot java down my front, or worse, lose a single drop of the liquid gold so early this morning when i desperately needed all the energy i could get.  the sky rolled steel clouds over the city as we, the inhabitants of this concrete jungle, braced for the wintry mix that had already begun to fall.  

i made it by the skin of my teeth.  if i had missed this train, it was another five hours till the next one.  If I had to, I could probably make a house with the eight million pounds of luggage (it felt like) I was carrying. I might have said eff it and pitched a luggage house right in the park for the night, and maybe I would have tried to find Tammy, the disturbed woman I'd met (or rather, was amoeba'd by) on the B-Line earlier that day.  She was doing just fine arguing with herself until i breathed and interrupted her tirade.  She had turned to me and screamed that NO she wasn't going back to that "fat bastard" and No I couldn't make her and Did I like her earrings, hm? and finally, as she exited to meet her lady friend in the Park, she informed me that YOU SHOULD REALLY JUST GO GET A PERSONALITY!  So I went to the store and I got a coffee.

Now, sitting safely on the Downeaster and far, far away from her, I mulled my options over what i could have done.  What would my Do-Over look like?  Hmmm.  I suppose if I hadn't been fuh-reaked out by this woman who was clearly unstable, it would've been interesting to actually talk to her.  To listen.  To take her burden, whatever it was that seriously bothered her, and lighten her load in some way.  Like when she laughed lightly at the girl sitting across from her, saying that her smile reminded her of her own daughter, to hear what that meant to her.  Because I think the reason she spun wildly and left the train crying was because she tried in her own way to feel validated.  And we the people averted eyes and pushed out small sympathetic smiles and politely chuckled to appease her but really?  We were totally uncomfortable all of us not knowing or wanting or feeling that we should look at her directly and say something nice.  Because then we're the ones who are vulnerable.  Because then she would direct all her attention to me.  And what would that be like?  If I had smiled and not looked away.  If I had said, "I'm so sorry." or laughed with her and asked her about the ring on her hand.  Maybe it would've felt good - even if she cussed me out - to remind her in a small way that she existed and deserved to be acknowledged; not as a stranger with issues, but as a person who is alive and living.  

Instead I sunk into the green plastic seat and became invisible.  No Do Overs.  I wasn't going to be Tammy's best friend, but Tammy had a point.  My person needed a gut check.  There's a time and a place to be cautious and a time and a place for acceptance and always, always time to show Love.  

Oh Boston, your skyline disappears as we head north and now we're overtaken by trees and farmland and the white cold snow that shapes each familiar thing into strangers.  And my head goes back and Bon Iver is playing and I reach for my coffee and I wish for Tammy a safe night, wherever she goes.

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