I'm sitting on the train
home, trying to read my book. I'm tired, real tired. I skipped out on Spanish
class, I just want to sleep and I have work tomorrow, early. She sat down next to me, too close, and started rummaging through her purse. I tried to ignore her, buried myself deeper in my book
She fished a harmonica
out of her purse, and started playing, quietly at first, then loud enough to be heard over the howling of the train over the tracks. I couldn't focus on my book anymore, but couldn't decide if I even wanted to. I pulled my hood down and stole a glance to my right. She sat there, red hair, black dress, playing the harmonica. Our eyes met. My eyes went back to the pages of my book. Generally, it's best not to make eye contact
with strange people on the train. I could see a pack of Parliaments
in her purse, in the pocket that was sitting too close to my leg.
By now, the whole train had gone silent, except for the whistling of the harmonica. We came out from underground, and the noise from the tracks nearly disappeared. The entire train watched her, transfixed, while trying not to make it obvious that they were watching. I looked out at the foggy outline of crane
s in West Oakland
, and abandoned any pretenses of reading my book. She stopped playing the harmonica, and began rummaging through her purse again. Tubes of lipstick
tumbled out, and one rolled into my leg.
"Sorry," she said, "I'm trying to organize my purse."
I looked at her.
"It's okay," I said.
She was kinda cute.
"Does organizing your purse always involve playing the harmonica?"
"No, I just found it, I haven't seen it in forever. Usually, I'm too shy to play in front of people, but I just felt like playing it now, you know? I play the cello too, and I can play that in front of people, but not the harmonica. Are you coming home from work or what?"
"Oh okay. What are you studying?" she asked.
"Poly sci, I want to go to law school."
"I don't understand why you'd want to work for the judicial system, all they do is screw people over. I've gotten screwed over with a lot of stupid shit, and everybody I know has too. They're all corrupt."
"Maybe that's why I want to be a criminal defense attorney, maybe. Help people out."
"They're all corrupt, I don't know why you would want to do that."
I asked her what she did.
"Massage therapy. Although I don't know what I'm gonna do, I'm going home to paint my floors and then my hands will be all stained and I don't want to show back up at work with messy looking hands..."
"This is my stop," I told her, "What's your number?"
I fished a pen out of my bag, and tried to write it down on my hand. The pen ran out of ink halfway through. She told me some kind of mneumonic involving gravy, which I repeated, then tried to walk out the door. The door had already closed.
"You have to press it open," she told me.
I tried, the train started moving.
"Well," I said, "I guess I'm stuck on here for one more stop."
I found a piece of paper in my backpack and wrote down her number with a different pen.
She chatted and chatted, seemingly unable to be quiet. I listened, bemused. I stood up when I got to the station, told her it was nice meeting her. She told me to call her, I said I'd try.
Ten seconds later, she came running up behind me. "I almost forgot, this is my stop too, I probably wouldn't have noticed if you hadn't gotten off here."
I smiled, and told her bye once again.
I think I'll call. It takes a certain kind of crazy to play a harmonica on the train.