Archive for the ‘See’ Category

The cap. The gait. The goatee and the shaved head. He has the appearance of Lenin. He removes his cap as he sits down. Beady eyes and writing in a spiral notebook. Furiously writing. Furrowed brow.

He wears no watch and no rings. His cuffs are unbuttoned but not rolled up. His clothing is not fitted but loose though not inappropriate for his frame and his brown shoes are in desperate need of a shine. I’m texting a friend in another state about this. He suggests that I approach him. I ask why. “Sheer curiosity I suppose”, he replies. I see no need.

His hands are wide. Thick. Veins struggle across the tops of them. While he writes with his right, in his left he holds a blue coffee tumbler. He unscrews the lid and takes occasional sips and glances around the car.

Now he’s reading a thick book though it’s title is hidden from my sight. I continue observing him and while he is aware of his surroundings he never once realizes that I’ve been watching him for the past ten minutes.

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It wasn’t their physical appearance that caught my eye, but rather the fact that they looked at one another while they were speaking. Sauntering down the street in no apparent hurry, side by side — they’ve known one another for some time. The narrow space between them filled with familiarity and trust.

A well-built man was leering at me in the shower at the gym. His unexpected proximity startled me. When I asked if he was looking for something he darted away quickly. While toweling off I introduced myself. He smiled from ear to ear. Because I think that is what he wanted. An opportunity to say something. An opportunity to be noticed himself. 

Out to dinner with a friend that I’ve long admired, we sat on the same side of the table so that we could share a computer screen. There were glances from around the room as people noticed and smiled, just slightly. I liked having him next to me. I suggest that we go to New York together. He won’t say yes. He won’t say no. 

His ruff and tumble photo is just a facade which does not accurately portray just how much of a pussy cat he really is. I know this because we speak on the street. It’s the man from Scruff who lives less than 600 feet away. I wonder if he’ll ever take me up on my offer to have dinner together.

The man who lives in the Loop who texts me about my weekend accomplishments, but never asks to be a part of them. But then, I’ve yet to extend the invitation. Until yesterday when I suggested that we meet for a coffee and a donut next weekend. 

The Wacker Drive executive who is so handsome that he makes my insides melt whenever we meet for a drink. He’s kind. Friendly. Charming. But he won’t initiate a conversation. He admitted once that he has no idea what he’s looking for. 

We’re all so close and yet we’re hiding. It’s done now in plain sight but it’s still hiding. “Don’t look. Don’t touch. But please notice me.” That’s the mantra. Except that it’s not working. We should be over this by now because we’re nearing our  fifties. We have the resources to accomplish almost anything and yet we keep ourselves from accomplishing this.

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If it were not for the occasional grey at his temples he’d easily be mistaken for one of the Hardy Boys. His boyish face and boyish frame – remnants of an earlier age, are still present, such that I’m convinced that he has freckles despite the fact that he doesn’t.

The look on his face is difficult to read.  At times he appears timid. Or deep in thought.   Perhaps he’s confused.  He looks up at the train map every now and then and his forehead contracts deepening the creases that are already there.  He watches commuters board at each stop and when he does this he lowers his face but looks up with his eyes.  Now he appears as innocent as he was when his his mother caught him sneaking gum drops when he had been explicitly told to wait.

It could be that he is new to the city.  People that are new to the city have different mannerisms when they ride the trains than do people who have lived here awhile.   It’s the glancing up at the map, and the attention at the stops.   New people to the city watch others board the trains not because they think a friend might get on but because they’re studying how the crowd functions.  It’s a subtle difference.  As for the map – eventually they learn to feel their way along the Red Line based upon the sounds and the sway of the cars.

While his mannerisms appear to be that of someone new to the city, his style of dress does not.  His brown suede shoes have salt stains.  Nicely cut navy-blue cotton slacks fit him perfectly as does the black quilted winter jacket that is tapered near the waist.  The collar and placket of his wool sweater is visible because his jacket is half unzipped.   His charcoal hair has a slight sheen and is parted precisely on the left.  The cut is borderline hipster but is kept far above his eye brows.

He pulls a book from his brown canvas bag.  On it’s pages are charts and graphs. Statistics. The subject congruent with his appearance.  Mostly the book is a prop because he doesn’t spend time focusing on the pages.  When he thumbs through the pages I notice the ring he’s wearing.  It’s the same matt-finish tungsten ring that I’m wearing.  I think he’ll notice mine when it catches the light – that he’ll see that it’s the same as his and this will cause him to look up at my face but that doesn’t happen.

I loose track of his actions by the next stop not because he has left but because the train fills  and those that are standing block my view.  Maybe now, with no clear cut view of anything, he’ll begin studying  the pages of his book.

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He boarded the train a couple stops after I had.

The nearest open seat was between two commuters and in it he squeezed.  Those on either side adjusted themselves accordingly.   He was glossy eyed and unshaven.  He wasn’t a commuter on his way to work though it appeared as if this may have been a fairly common routine.  A green ball cap covered all but the fly-away gray curls that sprung forth around it’s circumference.

In his hand he carried two things. Carol O’Connell’s book Shell Game and a beer wrapped in the plastic bag.  Shouldn’t it be wrapped in paper?

Click. Schuup. Tick.   Then he raised the can to his mouth as foam encircled the opening and took the first sip.  His hands shook as he placed it between his legs, securing it as he opened his book to a dog-eared page.  From his pocket retrieved his reading glasses.

With the exception of the beer and his shaking hands, his actions were completely normal for this hour of the morning.

I changed trains at Belmont and boarded a Purple Line Express that was now making local stops through Old Town.  At Sheffield serval more passengers boarded, including two women who, at first glance, fit the Lincoln Park Trixie look to a T.    Yoga pants, t-back sports tops, running shoes with florescent soles, one with pink and the other with lime green, and each with an expensive bag over her shoulder.

Both women had their hair pulled back into pony tails, both wore large dark sunglasses, and both were carrying their Starbucks cups and somehow avoided smudging their sparkling lip gloss.

The two women were classic Lincoln Park Trixie, except for one thing – they were pushing fifty.  It was their somewhat thick ankles that first caused me to give them a second look.  They did not have bony hips nor did they have petite waists.  I was standing close enough to them to see behind their sunglasses and it was apparent that they had had their eyes done.

Though the train was somewhat crowded, the two woman pranced playfully in place as they talked to one another.  A little too made up and a bit larger than the others, their movements reminded me of full-sized poodles on short leashes who had just run into each other again this morning at the entrance to the dog park.

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Before the train stopped at the platform he was visible.  At a distance he looked like a dandy –  slicked back hair and a full-sized umbrella firmly planted at his side as though it were a gentleman’s cane.  His posture was precise as he waited for the doors to open.


When he sat he placed the curled handle of his umbrella over the partition next to his seat and on his lap he placed an old  canvas gym bag, beige with brown leather trim.  It was the kind of bag that you’d have seen being carried in New York in the late 1990s.  It looked as if he had carried it around since then or if had been inherited from the estate of a favorite uncle.  It had sentimental value or he wouldn’t have carried it.


His navy-blue blazer was not purchased at the same time as his dark grey slacks.  From a distance they appeared to be the same color but they were not and even the worst sales clerk would not have let this go unnoticed.


The pin stripped shirt did not have french cuffs.  His oxford  shoes were buffed but where not of fine leather nor did they have leather soles.  Roman numerals marched around the face of his watch though its face was larger than it should have been and thus, not even a knock-off from Canal Street but something even less expensive.


From his bag he extracted a Blackberry – the final clue that this man was trying to appear impressive and knowledgeable.  He scrolled through a list of messages.  He was putting on a show of some sort, not for anyone on the train, but for the people he was about to see at his destination.


If he worked at a desk he’d only be seen from the waist up and under these conditions he’d appear almost perfect.  Respectable.  Staid, even.  Though even with a desk job you have to stand to greet people.  If he worked behind a counter his non-matching slacks might go unnoticed simply because of the added distance.


He didn’t work at a start-up company because guys at start-ups wear jeans.  He wasn’t in high-tech because guys in tech don’t wear navy blue blazers.  He wasn’t in finance, as the men in finance here wear only the finest suits.  He may have been in commodities, which would explain the canvas bag bursting at the seams, but he looked a bit old for a commodities trader and commodities traders don’t have to impress the public.


This man’s job was to impress people who were slightly below his social rank and to inspire their confidence.  He dressed like the kind of man who would try to sell you an over-priced mattress pad for the sake of a slight bump in his commission check.  The look on his face said that this was his last chance.



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The robin-egg blue dress was either vintage and in excellent condition or it was a reproduction.  It appeared to be tailored precisely to her body though she needed the bit of stretch that the synthetic crepe fabric offered.  Silver buttons sewn to false pockets in front, along the cuffs of the sleeves, and on to the epaulets on each shoulder.  They were metal and more like large rivets than buttons.

Cherry red lips against her very white skin were the only punctuation on an otherwise muted palette.  Her hair was platinum blonde and cut into a bob though sharply angled up from the nape of her neck which needed a trim because it exposed her hair’s chestnut origins and thus this was her only imperfection.  I imagined her eyes to be pale grey but they were hidden behind classic Buddy Holly styled sunglasses.

She carried a pristine cordovan leather attache.  Her baby-doll shoes were propped up on heel that had architectural significance.  The leather on each was scuff free.  By far, this was the best looking woman ever seen on an in-bound train during the morning rush.

It could have been easy to view her as a caricature of the female persona of this city;  the post-war arrival from the farm who’d come to Chicago a few years earlier to earn a living, enjoy the frivolity of being anonymous in a place for the first time in her life, and spending her money any way she wanted.  One could determine, however, that this woman was raised in the city.  If not this one, then certainly another of equal proportions.

The seat she choose was adjacent to mine and her decision gave me a choice of something to look at besides the usual brick buildings that had been adjacent to the L tracks for the past seven decades.

Once seated with her attache in her lap she continued with deliberate motions – the kind of motions that someone might perform while laying out a picnic.  She opened the attache and pulled out a stack of periodicals, of which the majority were graphic novels.   With the stack now placed atop her attache, she leafed through a couple of them before choosing the one that she would read.

This woman, the one I was watching today, would have been precisely the customer that yesterday’s woman in  the orange wedged-heeled shoes would have talked to for hours had she entered the fictional comic book store housed in a dark store front with wood floors.

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