People-watching

 

subway

I keep trying to write a story about a woman I saw once in the metro. It was crowded, probably sometime around rush hour. All I can remember about that day was that it was raining and cold; I had my umbrella with me, and my Vans were soaked through to my socks. The whole metro car was wet and miserable.

I was standing, grasping onto one of those four-pronged poles with about seven other people. She was sitting facing me, clutching at the purse in her lap absently. She was there, but it was clear her thoughts were somewhere very far away. Her eyebrows were knitted together above her nose, her lips tight. She was sad.

She had several tiny gold rings on her fingers. She wore lots of black, red and a bit of denim. Her hair was brown-to-blonde, and her face was soft and tanned, with bright hazel eyes. She wore a delicate gold pendant necklace, gold like her many rings and like the tips of her hair and like the sparkle in her eyes. She was just shimmery, golden, statuesque. Her presence astounded me. She sat there with a grace she didn’t seem to realize she possessed, a clueless grace that left me captivated, subtly observing her as the metro lurched us forward towards the city center.

I’ve tried to write about what could possibly have been bothering her. I’ve tried too many times to write about how she works at a restaurant, and she comes home late and alone clutching the wine and candy she bought at a gas station. She’s 22, and she lives with her closest friend, but they’re not really that close when it comes down to it. She has a story about something a man did to her one night a few years back, while she was trying to tell him to stop but he didn’t bother to listen. And she has a story about a romance with a teacher of hers, a bony and awkward poetry nut who always acted ashamed of her. When the story begins she is no longer with him, but she thinks about him a lot. She was happy, back when he was taking advantage of her youth and naïveté. And when the story begins she is seeing a man who doesn’t appreciate this beautifully unique yet misunderstood creature he gets to have in his presence. She wants so much more than this life of waiting tables and flirting with the unavailable bartender who she wishes didn’t love his girlfriend as much as he did, and coming home to a friend who is more a friend out of habit than anything else. But she works with what she’s got, and somehow she turns it into a good-ish life. I’m not sure how that happens, but that’s how the story is supposed to end.

I tried to write a story about a woman who is young and vibrant, but who is increasingly aware that the years she is living are supposed to be the best years of her life and they’re just not making the cut. I tried to make her aware that her life, who she is and what she wants, is defined by everyone except her. She exists purely because these people who take advantage of her use her to define themselves, use her to prove their own existence. She goes through life feeling like she leaves no mark, but acquires many marks of her own in the process. Instead of wearing her life down, she realizes that it wears her down. It’s her, but I think it’s me, too.

She is an adult who is at that age where one learns precisely what that means. It’s not having the power to get what you want, like you thought when you were a kid, but possessing the knowledge that things rarely work out the way you’d like them too but you have to take what’s given to you or you fall behind. I’m really only just starting to realize that.

I’ve started her story a good twelve times, but I’ve yet to finish it. I think that the girl on the metro, with the gold hair and the gold eyes, deserves a better story than the one I tried to give her. If she is really me, and I have a feeling she is, I’d like to think she’s got more going for her than that.

 

 

  • Maya Khankhoje

    Lovely story about people watching and introspection.