Subway Peoplewatching

A descriptive piece from my experience on the subway this morning:  The woman across from me in the subway was wearing a very formal business suit that exposed legs so smoothly shaved they might as well be wearing pantyhose.    Her pointy black shoes looked like they pinched her feet, and the button up-blouse under the crisp black jacket was an electric blue that made her complexion look sallow.  Or maybe the sallowness came from exhaustion.

There were huge dark circles not just under but all the way around her eyes, nearly.   She held an article full of charts and graphs which, perversely, she was highlighting with a very cheerful pink highlighter.    She kept nodding off over the article, but every time she did she would catch herself and start awake, and focus back on the article with an intense and dogged concentration.    A little silver teardrop rested in the hollow of her collarbone, but the token attempt at jewelry seemed a little forlorn to me.

“Woman’s formal wear is so uncomfortable,” I thought, staring at her through my own fog of exhaustion.   I tried to picture her wearing something different.

Then suddenly, I saw her, not in the chill light of the subway, but rushing out of some doorway into a field of flowers.  I pictured her spinning, the edge of her long skirt skimming the flowing grasstops, her arms raised to embrace the sky.  She wore a brown corduroy jacket which brought out the glowing  honey-brown of her hair, and a form fitting tan shirt which smoothed her angles and made them soft.   The tense, pinched lines around her mouth and eyes had relaxed, and her face was open and laughing.   The wind blew around her, refreshing her and washing her clean.  Standing like that, smiling, she looked almost like a different person.  Her shuttered soul came out from behind the blinds of her face and made her beautiful.

I blinked away my mental picture, and I was looking at a mundane businesswoman tensely hunched over her papers.  That’s why I love the subway;  I love looking at people.   I like to wonder about what people have inside of them.   Behind every bland or sullen face, there is a story, a hidden self, a secret beauty.

2 Responses to “Subway Peoplewatching

  • Anonymous
    ago6 years

    Thanks for this,
    And I wonder, in walking, driving, biking, flying or sitting on the subway, how many people have re-imagined you, or I, and what came of it. You remember this woman for what you saw in her. How many interactions have we unwittingly engaged in? Sometimes on road trips Lily and I will invent long and elaborate stories for cars driving near us, or people that we pass.

    Luckily you have a good heart and always give people their hidden beauty. Some of us invent darker stories. It is good that people like you and Lily can balance those stories out.

  • you’re fabulous, charlotte. what a lovely thing to see in your mind’s eye.

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