Coinciding with the July 2012 Ultimate Blog Challenge, I have decided to also participate in the 30 Day Letter Challenge in which I will write 30 letters to various folks who have touched my life directly as well as inadvertently. The letter for Day Six is to be written to a stranger.
I saw you on the train today. I usually don’t pay much attention when the light rail doors whisper open to let people in, but your red sweater caught my eye. It is nearly summertime and you must be warm.
When the doors closed behind you I saw you looking for a seat. As you began to sit down in one a college kid with a black backpack swooped in and took it from you. You nearly landed on his lap. You looked at him and he blew a bubble of gum in your face and looked away, bored. I wish I would have gotten up and offered you mine, but at the time it felt silly.
I stared at you for a long time, but you couldn’t tell with my eyes hidden behind large sunglasses. I couldn’t tell what you were thinking about; your face was such a blank slate. You wore a skirt with that red sweater and I saw you had a run in your stockings. Who wears stockings in Arizona? You looked a little disheveled, with bits of leaves stuck in your curly hair. I wanted to pick them out for you so you wouldn’t look so tousled, but we are strangers. That would be silly.
I wonder where you are headed. Will you get off the train at the college stop with the kid who stole your seat? Are you a professor who will stand up in front of your class with leaves in your hair and a run in your stockings? Or maybe you are a businesswoman headed downtown to one of the anonymous offices in a tall building with many windows. I will never know, because I never asked you. That would be silly.
After a while you looked right at me and my cheeks turned red because I had been staring at you for so long. Of course, you did not know. You looked at me for a minute and looked away again, but your expression did not change. Did you even see me; or were you looking out the window at something beyond my face?
I continued to look at you and wonder about your life for a few more stops. I noticed that you didn’t get off at the college stop and felt better that the class you might have been headed to teach would not laugh at your frazzled appearance. We are probably very close in age. You have a young face but are dressed much older.
The train has nearly reached my stop when you look at me again. For some reason I smiled. Not just a little upturn of the mouth, but big grin with lots of teeth. Your expression remained unchanged for a moment. Maybe you were wondering if I was smiling at you. Then out of nowhere that blank face shifted into a little smirk. Then into a matching grin. We smiled at each other as if we were friends and not strangers.
The automated voice indicated my stop over the speaker and I gathered my things to get to the door. Before I exited the train I glanced back at you. You were no longer looking at me, but you were indeed smiling.
Now that doesn’t seem so silly.
Until we meet again,
The smiling stranger