A story in a place that doesn't exist about a person I do not know


She is sitting on the eL, and is visibly uncomfortable. Middle aged woman- not handicapped- but frail. Unsettled. Hands locked onto the purse she is holding on her lap- fingers so tight that her knuckles are the colour of seashells. She stares at the floor and makes no eye contact with anyone. But I cannot help but watch her.

In the train car, there is uninvited intimacy. I am close enough, standing in the aisle near her, that I can see her eyelashes moving almost constantly -as if dust had fallen on her head and she needs to remove it from her vision- without moving her hands-and without letting go of her purse.

Is she afraid of theft? An attack of some kind? Her knees are locked together and her practical shoes are shoved under a seat, far from where a passenger might step on them if they walked by her.

If public places fill her with such dread, if the experience of the crowded train was that terrible for her- why is she out at all? What would drive her downtown on such a grey winter's day?

In my mind I think she is counting to herself- the number of stops until her stop- the number of minutes until she is home-- the number of steps to the platform-- to the stairs- to her apartment- 12, 11, 10, 9, and so on.

I close my eyes to her misery and I pretend. I dream that she has a warm safe place to walk home to after this ordeal. A quiet flat with a quilt spread over the sofa bed and china on the walls. She will pour water into a kettle to make some tea- and then will pour some more into a glass jelly jar (grape-Winnie the pooh) -take a small sip-and then pour the rest into her pansies- a small pot of flowers sitting in the window above her sink. The clouds part slightly to allow a little late afternoon sunlight into the alley. She smiles with relief.

In my dream this is what happens.


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