Archive for June 12th, 2013

There were seats available when I boarded the train this morning.  It was one of the new cars with inward facing seats – and there are fewer of them than on the older trains.  I sat facing east, though not ideal during a ride in to work on a sunny morning.

Across from me sat a young woman rummaging through her purse and upon locating her brush, she moved it through her hair.  First on one side, then the other, and then from underneath on both sides.  Black women spend so much time on their hair.  Also across from me was a thin man who I think was Chilean.  Narrow face.  Dark hair.  Brown eyes.  Olive complected though more pale from the European influences.    Navy blue slacks and a white shirt with an open collar.  That is the urban uniform of every Chilean man I’ve ever met.

At the next stop a tall young man boarded and I watched as the Chilean man looked him up and down.  Men in this city check each other out constantly.  Not out of sexual desire but because this is a city where the men are the peacocks and each of us is continually trying to determine our rank among one another.  The tall young man was in clothing that wasn’t tailored to his lean frame.  His close-cropped hair appeared overly neat compared to the two-day scruff on his face.  I imagined him being an officer in the Army having entered it from the ROTC.  His clothing had been predetermined for so long that he has lost the ability to choose it properly.  Still, he was handsome and sat rather unassumingly.

At the Berwyn stop – and by now the seats were filled and the people boarding now must stand, a man carrying a child entered the train.  This is unusual at this hour.  The child hung in front of him in an apparatus sleeping soundly, as any child would with the rocking motion of a train.  The father was disheveled but calm.  He was not making a stop at day care before work.   He was perhaps going home but from where?

Whenever a single man walks on to a train with a child two things happen.  The women first look at the man and then turn their gaze upon the child and smile.  The men glance with no expression but every one of them is thinking, “thank god that is not me” and the man with the child knows this.  He makes an effort to take up as little space as possible and does his best to remain unseen.   The Chilean man offers his seat – men always offer their seat to other men with children.  More often than they do to women with children.  It is the man code to help another man end his misery.  The father refused the seat.

I can see the ROTC man looking across the car at the man with the child.  He is looking at his future and I can tell by the look on his face that he knows this is inevitable.  He seems resigned to this fact.  Sitting next to the Chilean man is a woman with large Jackie-O sunglasses and I notice her watching me watch the others.  The sun is behind her and illuminates her eyes from behind the dark lenses.

Within a couple more stops the aisles fill with standees.  At Sheridan several more men board and the man with the child is surrounded by men dressed for work.  One of them is standing directly in front of me.  I first notice that he has a Coach messenger bag.  All men carry bags now but I had no idea that Coach was producing a line for men. His slacks were by Hugo Boss and although they were likely expensive one of the belt loops was sewn improperly, leaving an extra amount of fabric that should not be visible on slacks of that price.  His shoes were blue suede.

This man is a product.  Despite the money he has spent to look this way he is out of place.  Not because he does not look nice but because he is trying too hard.  One or two nice items make a man’s outfit.  He would have appeared more authentic if he had had a worn pair of Levi’s.

The young woman who had been brushing her hair was still across from me.  We caught each other’s eye through the bodies that stood between us.  I smiled and she smiled back.  Her smile so natural.  Her eyes glistened.  She looked so beautiful.

At Belmont she exited as a slew of new passengers boarded. Now more crowded than before, a woman who looked as if she was Thai stood in the aisle near  me.  Two bags strapped over her shoulder as she reached up to hold on to the strap.  She balanced on wedge-heeled sandals and held a paper cup of coffee precariously above the person who was seated in front of her.  The worst possible scenario on a crowded train –  oblivious to a potential disaster.

Like most days, this is my first interaction with humanity and I find it fascinating.

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