I first noticed The Friendly Woman after a couple of days of my commute. I tend to observe people in general, and I don’t often forget a face. I’d seen her my first trip, and here she was again on my second trip. She had a masculine hair cut – no style to it, parted on the left, cropped short around her circular head. She sat in the northwest corner of the train station, dolloped onto one of the uncomfortable benches of wrought iron and cedar, varnished to a high gloss, her face buried in a romance novel. Her rotund body bulged so she seemed like a beanbag collapsing into the slats.
When I walked in, I gave the station my usual precursory scan. I always check a place out when I walk in – see who’s there, get a feel for the populace. Not many people huddled inside the depot; Curly Sue was in her corner, at the other end of the row of benches from The Friendly Woman, riffing through her iPod songs. A bald man with his foot in a walking cast shuffled advertisements out of his newspaper, his Parkinsons tremors shaking his pate and hands. A man with his arm in a body-embracing sling leaned over a lacquered tree limb cane with a rubber foot on the end, a low-crowned cowboy hat snugged down over his ears. A young man tumbled through the doors with a small Igloo lunch cooler, his hard hat’s hollow plastic clattering against the floor, the benches, the cooler.
I sat down between Curly Sue and The Friendly Woman, which is when I noticed the latter’s gaze on me.
When she saw my eyes shift to her, she didn’t break her stare. Instead, she smiled. “Hi,” she said, and her voice was soft, warm, welcoming. I couldn’t help responding with my own weary smile and returned her greeting. She went back to her bodice-ripper, and I shut my eyes to pray.
The next morning, she caught my attention as I entered the building and greeted me with “Good morning,” in her usual, chipper-but-unobtrusive sing-song. And so it went, every day. Sometimes she’d make small talk about the weather, or the train, and asked where I stopped at the other end. Other times, when the weather warmed into summer, she’d comment on how pretty the train station grounds are relative to others she’s seen along the line. I agreed with her; the flowers and plants were pretty if not beautiful. The train station building was too hot, without air conditioning, to wait inside, so many passengers – more than 20 at times – would crowd the edge of the platform and await the train, swatting mosquitoes and fanning gnats. TFW and I would chat quietly for a few minutes before she returned to her novel and I paced. I always pace.
When the tragic accident I called Not a Typical Morning happened, she didn’t complain. She never commented with the others in the station in a calloused, uncaring way. She only made a couple of phone calls to arrange another method of transport. Oh, and we didn’t exchange greetings that day.
When autumn’s bite returned the chill to the air, I didn’t retreat back into the train depot. I would wait on the platform and let the cool, brisk winds brace me, wake me. But I’d see her by her northwest window, bundled in a parka with her hood drawn over her head, book in her hand, dolloped onto her bench. In my head, I always said, “Good morning.”
I still do sometimes.
All original content © 2009 DarcKnyt
ALL rights reserved.