The subway car was packed with rush hour commuters, far below the sunlight and color that crept its way into a long, glum winter streak. A lucky few found a seat, but most stood, clinging to the metal bars as the train jerked its way uptown. A man lost his balance and fell into another’s lap. There was no ‘excuse me,’ ‘I’m sorry,’ or, ‘ are you okay?’ No one else even turned their eyes from their folded hands, iPod, or magazine. The cold, biting wind seemed to have stripped away the kindness that day. The garbage on the ground must have cluttered their manners. The same vacant stares and straight-mouthed faces sat side by side, but wore different coats.
At the midtown stop, the doors opened, and like a rush of water making its way through a narrow tunnel, the crowd pushed through the sliding doors onto the platform. It was one man’s only chance to do what he’d been thinking about since Union Square. This was his stop, and the girl he’d been watching since he boarded, remained in her seat.
He moved with the crowd, inching closer to her with each step. And then, just before he was squeezed out of the subway car forever, he managed to bend low to her ear level just long enough to say, “You are very beautiful.”
Startled, she jerked from her trance and made eye contact with him before the other passengers washed him away. She giggled and smiled, but could not collect herself in time to say thank you. She turned sharply over her shoulder and searched out the window for him. Just as the train began to move again, she found him, and rewarded him with a million dollar smile. I saw him smile at her in return. And then I smiled.