The subway is relatively quiet at this time of night–the time after the 4-to-8 p.m. rush, but before the post-arena crowd descends or the bars close, hours later. Most of us riding at this hour have worked well into the evening, and we are content to fold our arms and sink alone into our tired thoughts. Unlike during the morning rush, when papers are read and eye makeup is applied and subtle glances are exchanged, early night-timers have no use for or interest in each other. We are done for this day.
Which is why the commotion at the front of the train caused me to look up. I couldn’t hear the two girls who suddenly recognized each other, who seemed to scream with uninhibited joy and surprise and delight to have found one another, because my playlist dubbed “New/Old Stuff” was blaring through my earbuds. I couldn’t hear their laughter that surely filled the train as I watched them hug and then part to smile at one another, only to hug a second longer, a second time.
And I told myself I was only watching them with half interest as my train sped through the next tunnel.
But the commotion didn’t die down. And now the one girl’s friend and the other friend were hugging, and suddenly many hands were waving and the group’s gestures became sweeping, choreographed dances–a mysterious language to most–all directed to each other. Their joy, however, was easy to understand.
As the train lumbered to a halt at the next stop, two of the friends got off, but not before many more hugs and gestures were shared. And as I listened to Eliot Morris get the harmony just right in “Faultline,” two of the friends continued their talk through the double-paned train windows, one standing on the platform frantically gesturing as fast as she could to share as much more as she could with the one seated on the other side of the window.
Arcing arms and pointing fingers, sweeping fists and mouthed words emanated from both girls. They knew they only had seconds before the doors closed and the train would move on, and they filled them with an overt display of an abundance of love and affection for each other. I knew I was not the only one watching, not the only one to be moved by their private moment so publicly displayed through their visual language.
The girl on the train wiped tears from her cheeks that had to be sore from smiling so wide. She was so obviously astounded to have reconnected in so unexpected a time and place as now with her friend. She was so obviously sad to know this joy would only last a minute.
And I thought about my best-sister-friend in Montana, and how wonderful it would be to see her unexpectedly walk onto a subway car at any time of day or night. And I how I would never let her leave the train at the next stop, at least not without me.
And I thought about my boy in Hawaii, having the time of his life before his real life begins, and I smiled to myself, even as I missed him.
And I thought about the man in my restaurant who’d been waiting for his wife to join him, only to be escorted from our restaurant by two police officers who told him they were taking him to his wife, who was now in a hospital, because she’d been hit by a car in a crosswalk as she walked to meet him. And I wondered now how she–and he–were faring, and how drastically, in a moment, his life had likely changed today.
And I when I got home, I booked a last-minute flight to Colorado to surprise Restaurant Gal Daughter, because she sounded like she needed a hug from her mom when I talked to her a few days ago. Damn the cost or the quasi-jet lag I won’t have time to feel in my 28 hours there. When I called to tell her, she was, indeed, surprised. She then rattled off a list of things she said she couldn’t wait to do together.
In every moment of every day, no matter how you think it will all play out, you never really know what’s next. I figure it’s a good thing when you can orchestrate the happy part of the unexpected.