I bike and ride the train sometimes. It’s cheaper—at times, faster—than driving; plus, biking allows me to feel the nice warm smog gently caress my face and clog my lungs. More importantly, it offers a glimpse and a chance to interact with the immediate world around me that being isolated in a metal container on wheels will never be able offer. A world so steeped in contradictions and hope that only the selfish and foolish would ignore its inherent beauty. One trip last week truly brought that home for me.
The day started with these two young ladies, late teens-early twenties, boarding the train. One of them wore Corona pajama pants, which seemed at tad odd seeing it was 9:30am, and she is on a train, but to each’s own. Regardless of what she’s wearing, it’s her smile that has my attention. It’s effortless and authentic. There was something that genuinely made her show off her whites, and it deftly contrasted the look on her friend’s indifferent face. After enjoying her joy, I looked off just right of them, at a guy holding his bike. A fairly common site on the train. Shit, I was leaning against mine! As I examined more closely, I notice liquid jumping off of his bike and I decided to trace the liquid: ground to bike to bottle holder to hm…a freshly christened can of Steel Reserve 211. The can was still sweating! One never knows, this could be his Happy Hour after a long night shift. I’d prefer it not be on the train, but he was chill; so, I was chill. When his stop arrived, he quietly exited. I still had several more stop to enjoy the joy.
Two guys boarded the train. Both of whom made me wish I my camera. The first had a shaved head, square framed glasses, light gray skinnies, a size-too-small navy cardigan, and Gucci sneakers. To put it plainly, he was stylish as shit. That black three ring binder with messy papers only added to his prep meets Central Avenue look. He was gorgeous, and I could not stop looking. But a dude staring at another dude in public, even if out admiration, can be misinterrupted as a hostile gesture. Not wanting to be misunderstood, I wrestled my eyes away, pass the joy and right into another fellow. This new guy’s look was less preppy, but no less spectacular. The beaded necklace that dangled around his neck stopped half-way down his white sweater on which a depiction of (what I think is) the Virgin Mary was inked. His not so skinny jeans hang well below his waist, though not low enough to cover his white Nikes laced with leopard print shoe strings. One could tell he put time and thought into his fit, and it worked because I’m in the same predicament with him as I was with the last dude. Luckily, my stop was coming, but not before joy and her friend exited the train. Before they passed through the door, she reached under her Corona pj’s to reveal beige jeans. I stood corrected.
Once I carried my bike down the stairs, I waited for my Big Blue chariot to arrive. While waiting, I noticed this young girl, maybe three or four, walking in front of her mother. Her mother towered over the little girl as she guided her way through the recently installed turnstiles like a couch through a front door. The little one had no such trouble, but if her facial expression was a window into her first 1500 days of life, I’d want to close the blinds. Her mouth was tight, eye brows shifted down toward her nose, and her walk was determined. I reminded again–the joy had left. Her mother’s body language juxtaposed the girl’s, but body language is one thing. Her appearance resembled that of person who lived through more than her share of trials. Her hair was disheveled, but not in the “I finger paint with my elbows: I’m an ARTISTE” kind of way, but the “there are more pressing needs in my family’s life than what label is around my neck and how Sister 2 Sister my hairstyle is.” And again, I wish my had I camera. I wish I could have captured those emotions and heart as respectfully and honestly as possible. These are images only seen places most do not trek and they are difficult-if at all possible-to emulate. They me even more difficult to understand and love.