Riding Metro North. With Nana.

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 Ledgesand 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.”



  1. You’re an observant man with a heart. That tells me you’re trying to be a better man. May you succeed beyond your wildest expectations, from a base that is likely already quite high.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I wonder why some of us notice and others stay insulated by self.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I don’t know Lisa. But guessing maybe:

      It was snowing hard, the flakes whirling down. My hair was soaked already. After a while, I gave him five bucks and walked on. That night I watched the snow falling for a long time. The air was full of wet neon, sliding and smearing in the streets. What is it about the pain of others? Easier to pretend that it doesn’t exist. Easier to refuse to make the effort of empathy, to believe instead that the stranger’s body on the sidewalk is simply a render ghost, an accumulation of coloured pixels, which winks out of existence when we turn our head, changing the channel of our gaze.

      ~ Olivia Laing, The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone (Picador, March 1, 2016)

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Love the stories behind every person we connect with. I recite them in my head like you, not judging, just observing. It’s always so interesting. She may well be rich and privileged! you just don’t know and as she hasn’t been burdened growing up in an era where we are constantly distracted by crazy busy technology, she looks like she is meditating ha! Great read Mr K. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  4. carolwelshphotography says:

    Well, whatever her life really is, it sounds like she lives it with grace and dignity. Were you able to look into her eyes? It’s amazing what can be seen there, the windows to the soul and all, you know…yes, you know. Thank you for this story, David. Your observations and story telling are themselves windows to your own soul, and that IS amazing. 🙂

    Liked by 5 people

  5. It feels like I’m on the train with you! ♡
    Diana xo

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Great lyrics, good timing!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. You could write an interesting book with all the characters you meet on the train.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I love this series, David.
    As a WIP, you are definitely on the right track (sorry, couldn’t be helped 😉)
    Your observations are fascinating to read.
    Oh, and thank you for introducing me to Noah Gunderson!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. You made me feel her presence…the beautiful figure who perhaps falls outside the norm of the 5:55 commuter. The person others may never see. I felt her in my heart, she is here. Thank you for making us notice her.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Interesting you mention that Mimi. She is so far outside of the norm of the 5:55 commuter, and I could so feel her too. Thanks for pointing it out, I believe that is why she so moved me. I wonder if I would have felt the same on a later train.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Wish there was a Nana on every bus and train.
    Oh, and someone like you…
    For her, and to come back and write about it.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. I really enjoyed this post!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Oh, those lyrics.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. and the first step to becoming a better person is noticing and being open to the other people around you. you are on your way –

    Liked by 2 people

  14. You have empathy David and care about humanity. Wonderful trait. We all have stories behind our wrinkles and pain but we also have love to share.
    Years ago when I was in my early twenties I worked in Manhattan I was on my lunch break. It was freezing cold I was shopping and passed a man sitting against the wall of a store front shivering, everyone was just walking passed him, he was elderly. I went inside the store and purchased a blanket took it outside and wrapped it around him and gave him some money. I will never forget the look in his eyes and his “Thank you miss”, I hope it helped.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. It’s such a powerful affirmation to be seen and acknowledged, and a startlingly easy gift to bestow, and yet…. Thanks for another beautiful piece of writing, pal, and for helping us all look a bit more closely….

    Liked by 2 people

  16. I’m looking at her. Through your eyes, and I feel her. Your observations are great reminders to see. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. roseanne333 says:

    Dear David ~ this was evocative and beautifully written. And I hadn’t heard of NG – oh, the lyrics…..(He’s coming to New Haven, btw). I’ve loved reading every entry of your Riding Metro North Epistle. Truly a gift.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. This is beautiful. Thank you.

    Liked by 3 people

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