Friday, December 17, 2004

A Subway Ride

Today an amazing thing happened. I saw two people in love! When was the last time you saw something like that? I don't mean adoloscents and teenagers trying to display their affection which in essence is just that, a display. I mean two people who're really jelling together so well that you can see!

As usual I was running late for work and had fast paced to the subway station. Being peak hour at that time of the day, the coaches are never empty. Nevertheless, as soon as the doors opened, I managed to get a seat at the end of the car. The doors slid close with an automated, ever polite, voice firmly going "Stand clear of the closing doors, please". The train trundled along.

As it happens when you commute, you get into the habit of getting into a daze for the required period of time before your stop arrives! Maybe you stare at some ads, maybe you just watch the clock or maybe you just watch the people around you. Either way, your brain goes on self-drive especially if there's the rhythmic swaying of the train.

The train was filled with the usual mix of people for that time of the morning. Mostly people in office clothes. And since this train goes to Wall Street, there was the usual Wall Street crowd. You can spot them anywhere - mostly men, mostly white, in dark suits, like a uniform. Standard ties. Actually, the cost of the ties go up as the age goes up! In winter they also wear dark overcoats. Usually they'll have a 'Wall Street Journal' or a 'New York Times' peeping out of their bags or from under their arms.

At the next stop the doors opened and people piled in again. This couple got in and got a seat directly in front of me. The thing that struck me was that even sitting down, they were holding hands. Well, actually what was strange about seeing those held hands was the age of the couple. They were both in their late forties or so, if not older. And yet they were holding hands! Rarely as one finds this happening, if you watch people usually, they don't hold hands sitting down, even if they had been doing so standing up!

They were both black. The man looked more like a homeless guy. His clothes were dirty as was his jacket. The cap on his head was not too clean either and his grey hair sneaking out of it was practically in dreadlocks. The woman look marginally better. She was fat, but her clothes looked as if she had a job. A little more presentable. Neither seemed like they were from great backgrounds, and seeing their held hands I also noticed that the man's fingernails were grown and dirty.

They were talking. Well, they were smiling and talking to each other. Looking at them chatting, they looked so happy! The contrast with their clothes, appearance and the way they were feeling was very, very vast. I got a bit of their conversation - the woman asked "Where did you sleep last night?"

As they sat and held hands and smiled and chatted, I watched. I couldn't take my eyes away. Their happiness was so complete, so pure, and so... so... wonderful that it was mesmerising. They were in their own bubble, totally complete and content. Amazingly, as I watched them, I started feeling happy too! Not because of any thought that came into my head. Not because it reminded me of something from my own life. I just felt happy watching them! And I realised that I was smiling as well! I looked away thinking it would be very embarassing if they saw me staring and smiling!

The train moved along. My stop was still a couple of stations away. I thought that when I get up to leave, I'd just tell them that they had made my day. But you know how it is. Your social conditioning stops you from speaking to strangers. I was debating within myself. The train stopped. The next station was mine. And then I see these two getting up! I didn't know what to do! They were standing, waiting for the doors to open. My mind was churning out ridiculous consequences. The doors slid open. The couple were waiting for the office crowd to rush out. They were just a foot away. As the gap in front of them cleared and they were going to take a step out into the station I reached up, tapped the man's arm. He looked surprised and turned. "You two are very much in love, aren't you?", I said. "Great", I added. Before they could react, the announcement came through about the doors closing. They stepped out, but before they did, they both smiled at me.

The train started again. I looked around to see if there were others in the train who were like these two. But nope, for everyone else, the train ride was just a means to an end. A chore. Not an event by itself.

I settled back. Nothing had changed. Yet everything looked different.


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