Facing inward, though it didn’t matter, sat a blind man gripping his cane as one end rested on the floor between his legs. It wasn’t he that I first noticed however, nor was it the others sitting near him. It was their shoes. Two of them were wearing neon-green running shoes and another had a neon-green gym bag and this mass of color took my eyes to the floor of the train first after boarding.
The man with the neon-green gym bag had unzipped it and was leaning forward, fiddling with the contents. His shoes were newly purchased Chuck Taylor’s, the kind that Target sells for forty bucks. From his bag he pulled out a large zip-lock bag and inside of that were smaller plastic containers filled with unrecognizable food. He placed one container on the seat next to him – and the man sitting two seats over from him, one of the men wearing neon-green running shoes, looked down at the container, then up at the face of the man who placed it there.
Once he organized his plastic utensils, the man took the container of food onto his lap, opened the lid – holding it precariously because it contained residue of the contents it covered, and began eating. It was a soupy mix – maybe cream of chicken. Surely cold. He methodically consumed the entire contents over the course of just a couple miles. It appeared that this was a routine – things packaged so precisely and not a drop spilled on his white v-neck t-shirt. When finished, he placed the empty container back into the zip-lock bag neatly.
At Addison the blind man stood up to exit and I realized that he was not blind at all, though he had stared blankly foreword the entire time. The cane between his legs was his collapsable fishing pole. I had wondered if he knew the man sitting next to him had been eating. If he could smell the food or hear the sounds – which of course he had, though he never once looked.
At Belmont the train filled as usual. As I stood up to offer my seat to a woman with a small child, the man with the neon green gym bag stood and offer his seat to another. Together he and I stood near the door, each with our headphones in, each in our own tiny world and just inches apart. He was shorter than I. Well built. Auburn hair on his forearms and the same color beard, which was actually mutton chops, now that I could see more than just the side of his face.
When the train arrived at Fullerton there was only standing room and when the young pale-skinned woman in orange wedged-heels boarded, she looked across at me, up and down, making mental notes of something. Perhaps the stitching on the yoke of my shirt. Perhaps my beige suede wingtips.
In addition to her orange wedged-heeled shoes she carried an orange messenger bag that looked like the kind of bag one might obtain by sending in twenty proof-of-purchase bar codes. It was dirty and its brass zipper did not close properly. I wondered what was inside.
She leaned back against the partition that divided the standee area from the seats behind her and braced herself with the wedged heels after the doors had closed and while the train was accelerating. Her shapeless dingy black skirt hung limply from her waist and didn’t cover her knees which were shaped like the kind of apples that have fallen and have been left under an apple tree in an empty lot.
In her left hand she carried a clear container of cold coffee with a lid and a straw. It too looked dirty, like one that had sat in the sink for a day or two and had not yet been rinsed out. When she reached up to adjust her glasses with her right hand, her sleeve came up enough to expose a tattoo of words that encircled her right forearm just a few inches below the elbow. Dux Femina Facti.
Her appearance – pragmatic and certainly not cosmetic in any way, led me to imagine her working behind the counter in store that bought and sold comic books. A dark, wood floored tiny shop with a hanging velvet curtain that hid a storage area. She believed in super heroes I imagined, and in a comic book store she could theorize with others who would come in to look for an issue that was missing from their personal collection.
For a moment I thought that she might work at an adult book store, where she’d glare from her slightly raised platform behind a glass cabinet at the men who came in and browsed the DVD covers. It would be the kind of work that would disgust her and justify her beliefs simultaneously and she would revel at being able to present this disdain because the cashier at an adult book store always has a certain contempt about the people they serve.
As the train moved downward into the tunnel I began to prepare for my exit at the next stop and realized that those with neon-green shoes had already left the train.