5:55 am train to Grand Central. It’s the 2nd stop. My head is down, I’m flipping through the morning papers.
The voice is soft, kind: “Excuse me.” She struggles to avoid contact as she slides to the middle seat; she’s directly across and to my left.
Someone’s Mother, Someone’s Grandmother, a Nana.
She settles in, straightening her neat, navy skirt. Her hands clutch a thin, pocket umbrella and rest on her lap, on top of a small black purse attached to a black shoulder strap.
Of Central American origin, Guatemalan, if I was guessing, of Mayan origin, guessing again.
I catch her in a quick glance at me, she was guessing: “Suit. Privileged. WASP. Ivy league educated. Money.” Wrong on most, but not all counts. OK, let’s call it wrong on some counts.
She has no newspaper. No book. No e-reader. No smartphone.
I return to my reading.
I note a slight, right, head turn to the wall sized Lord & Taylor ad. A glamorous model in a long white dress, leaning against a book case in the library of an old Victorian mansion. She absorbs the scene for a moment, then turns her head back to her post, straight ahead, slightly down, a meditative position.
But for these two moments, she’s Still. Quiet. Motionless. For the entire 56 minute ride. Her hands rest on her lap, her fingers and knuckles are swollen, arthritic. Hard, deep crevices cut the gentle, soft body.
Health care? Pension? Unsure. But there is a glass Kerr Canning Jar on the top shelf in the cupboard, filled with loose change, her stow-a-way savings for a birthday gift for her granddaughter.
We arrive at Grand Central. I shift to let her pass.
“No, please Sir, you go.”
“No, please, I have time.”
She takes a deep breath, her small hand grips the polished stainless steel railing at the back of the seat. She pulls herself up. Her body doesn’t respond, stiff, from the hour long ride. She exhales, pain rippling through her torso:
“I’m sorry Sir.”
She exits the train.
I watch her for a moment, her back and shoulders slumped forward, she slowly makes her way down the platform – other commuters race by.
I insert my ear buds and hit play, turning to my exit in the opposite direction. I flick by tunes in my Favorites playlist to find it. Aha. Here it is.
Noah Gunderson sings Ledges…and I piece together patches of his lyrics:
“Here, I stand on the edge of the ledges I’ve made,
Looking for a steady hand…
Trying to be a better man.”