Now only one street stood between him and the station. He could see that the cross walk light was green, and not wanting to miss the light, he ran. When it turned orange, he sprinted. And just as he made one final leap from the street, to safety of the curb, the light turned red. As his foot returned from air and touched the pavement, his ankle wouldn't support the force of the landing, and gave way.
He found himself on the ground, rain soaking through his jeans, and cursing, not out of pain, but out of frustration. His backpack had come unsnapped in the course of his travel, and now his books spilled onto the ground. His first instinct though, was to save his iPod from the rain. He snatched it, safe into his hands and shielded it from the falling rain with his upper body, leaning forward and creating a shelter. Then he pulled his dry shirt from underneath his gray jacket and wiped off the face of it. He tucked it into his pocket where it would stay safe as he cleaned up the books.
Frazzled and angry, he headed towards the train that had not yet left. But he paused when he saw someone else on the ground. He had just been down there, and it was horrible. He'd be wet for hours now. That's what he was thinking as he slowed down, considering whether or not to stop and offer his assistance. And in that moment, it registered to him, that it was not a passenger or pedestrian who had fallen, but a homeless woman.
She made a spot big enough for only her on the ground, probably hours ago before it started to rain, but where could she go instead? So she remained. She sat Indian style, her spine straight as a ruler, her face expressionless. She didn't ask, or beg, or even have a sign asking for help. But her eyes landed on him after his spectacle at the exact same time his eyes found her.
He suddenly knew he could not continue towards the train and ignore her. He would be on time now, he was sure of it. He shoved his hands deep into his jean pockets, certain that he haphazardly stuffed a $5 bill and some change in there after purchasing a bagel this morning. But they were empty. And all within a matter of only 3 or 4 seconds of meeting her eyes, he did something out of unexplained instinct. He pulled his iPod out and unzipped his jacket. He handed the iPod to her first, and then the jacket. "That'll keep it dry," he said. He supposed that maybe she could sell it and buy food.
Her reaction was small, but sincere. She didn't speak, only nodded to him. Then she held the iPod in one hand and raised it up. As she did, he heard her make a noise, not a word, just a sound. If it was a word it would have meant, "Neat!" And by the 4th second of their encounter, he was on the train. And now, he had nowhere to walk, nothing to listen to, and nothing to distract him from the passengers that were stuffed into the train car, shoulder to shoulder. He watched her out the window for as long as she was visible.
To this day, the woman sits in that train station, in that same spot. She still does not actively beg or ask for money, though some passers-by have compassion and give her spare change. In the cold winter months, or the hot summer days, it doesn't matter. She always looks the same. She sits Indian style on the ground and wears an over sized men's, gray jacket. And out of the right pocket, a thin white wire snakes up her body and breaks in two, just underneath her chin. Then continues up to both ears, giving her nourishment.