avoiding the apple core in the doorway
and the nearby spread of apple peel confetti.
A woman sits beside, her stomach surely digesting the fruit juice
to the nourishment of her body.
She holds a dispenser bottle in one hand,
the smell of the train betraying its contents.
She now appears to be rubbing it onto the car floor
with her crocs.
Struck by curiosity and burdened by compassion
I stand nearby, grasping a rail and taking it in –
soaking her in.
Her back is hunched over, her face in her bosom;
hair tied in a bun.
She wears a dark ragged tunic and black skirt,
hanging down to her ankles... also black,
but with wear, dirt, decay.
I suspect they ought to be yellowish-brown.
After a time she lifts her head, peering around.
Her expression and overall appearance
bear a haunting resemblance to Gollum.
At the Columbus Circle station the train empties.
I take a seat across from my friend,
continuing to observe her studiously.
She pours some more liquid into her hands
and rubs them diligently against one of her many bags,
this one made of a rough canvas.
and rubs her hands on the chrome train wall.
“This train will make all local stops.”
The train again empties,
excepting myself and my friend.
As the express train makes local stops, I write.
We arrive at 125th Street, I'm nearly at my station.
She pulls out a harmonica, begins blowing “Amazing Grace.”
I am nearly moved to tears.
she shouts – though it sounds like a whisper –
with a frail, mousy, desperate voice.
Her eyes are wet, wandering.
She plays another handful of familiar tunes,
without much virtuosity...
or joie de vivre.
I finish jotting a sentence and pack up my things, hastily withdrawing a dollar from my wallet as the train rolls into the 145th Street station.
She thanks me as I hand it to her.
“You're very welcome. May I have your name?”
She winces and appears not to have heard me;
but she looks on at me, searchingly.
“May I please have your name?” I venture again, hopefully.
“It doesn't matter,” she says,
“I'm not important.”
In her vulnerability I see her beauty.
My heart sinking, I look on her with compassion.
“I very much doubt that. My name is Gio,”
I extend my hand.
She peers at it, suspiciously
until finally shaking it with visible reluctance.
I ask a final time for her name.
“I'm not an important person...”
Again I dismiss this claim, having no part in satanic head games.
Still suspicious, she asks,
“Why do you want to know?”
Indeed, why would anyone want to know?
“In case I ever see you again,” I answer uncertainly,
“I can say hello.”
“You won't ever see me again.”
“Do you live in New York City?”
“It doesn't matter. There are eight million people in this city, and forty million if you count commuters and tourists...
the chances are very small.”
Despite her conviction – and seeming resolve –
that our paths will never again cross,
I can think only about how this world –
even a city so dense as New York –
has proven itself to be so enigmatically small.
The train doors slide open.
“It was a pleasure meeting you,”
she says cordially as I step onto the platform.
I turn and reciprocate with a farewell,
confident that I will soon see her again;
at which point
I can only hope to receive a satisfactory answer;
to finally learn her name.