I always sit two rows back so I can watch her without really seeing her and her never seeing me. She sits with a leg up and her hand hanging off a bended knee. Her fingers dance to music I cannot hear, but it’s probably a piano piece. It must be a piano piece. Only the ivories can make fingers dance with such beauty.
Her skin is china-white, and there is a tattoo of Ouroboros on her wrist, the snake coiled in a circle consuming itself. All is connected. Nature is infinite. It’s clean and well-done, but it makes the yin yang ring on her middle finger seem redundant. I come close to being annoyed by this trivial detail, but then another song is sent through her earphones and her fingers start dancing again. All is forgiven.
Sometimes her raven hair is striped purple or blue or dark green or pink. It’s as if she’s wearing a mood ring. I try to make sense of what the colors mean, but it’s likely they don’t mean much of anything. They’re always accompanied with the same style of torn jeans and Converse shoes and wristbands made with various threads and colors lacking rhyme or reason.
I notice she looks ahead at the coming tracks and I always look off to the side at the scenery passing by. I don’t know why. I wonder if it’s symbolic. I wonder if she’s more in tune with herself than me. Maybe I should start listening to the piano. Maybe I should get a tattoo.
She’s new to the area. We’ve been sharing the same stop for a few weeks, and I’ve only seen her standing alone in the morning, and she’s never with anyone when she’s going home, or so I assume. Our paths split immediately; hers is east and mine west.
She smiled at me once, a few days after seeing me at the station. I was too nervous though. I flashed a smile and a quick wave, but that was it. It was then we both understood I had respectfully declined the unspoken attempt at friendship.
Unfortunate. Silence has become the end result between us.
The train jitters over a poor section of track and banks left. We’re nearing our stop now. It’s another chance to introduce myself, to say hello, to reconcile my mild rudeness from the first time she tried to break the ice. It’s another chance to berate myself after failing.
It seems shyness is the event horizon for eternal silence between two unmet friends. The black hole, obviously, is loneliness.
The train stops. We get off. She huddles under the collar of her jacket as cold wind sneaks in through the gaps. I’m ten steps behind and almost to that point where I pretend to tie my shoe or throw something in the trash or get something out of my bag so that I don’t feel like a stalker pacing her until we reach the street.
But she stops. She’s fishing something out of her pocket now. It’s a gum wrapper. She drops it in the bin and glances at me again. The surprise catches me off guard and emboldens me. Through some miracle, I speak.
She shoves her hands into her coat pockets and her forces her chin down. The wind snaps her black hair around. The front is vivid purple stripe. “Hi.”
And there we are. I look at her and she looks at me and the train presses on to the next station without us. We’re alone with the cold, whispering wind as chaperone. My mind moves like the train and leaves without me.
“I love your hand.”
Her eyes squint, and I notice they’re an amazing blue, like the frozen lake not far from the station. “What?”
Though the cold bites at my face, my cheeks flush and fill with heat. “I mean your tattoo. The snake.”
“Oh,” she says. “Thanks.”
“And your fingers,” I practically blurt out.
She’s hesitant. “You like my fingers?”
I palm my forehead like a drunk driver failing an interview with the police. “Yeah. That’s weird, but that’s not what I meant.” I sigh and regroup and see that she’s still standing there. Despite the cold and the awkwardness, she’s still with me. “What I mean to say is, I love how your fingers dance when you’re listening to music. On the train.”
The words slowly soak into her mind, and she stares at me for a moment. More cold rushes by. A slow smile crawls across her lips. I know it’s sincere because she also smiles in her eyes.
“I’m Claire,” she says with a shallow bow of her head.
“I’m freezing,” I say in return.
She laughs then. She laughs and it’s beautiful and suddenly I realize I’m not freezing. A warmth is blooming inside of me.
“Can I walk with you, Claire?” I ask.
“Sure,” she says, already turning and hurrying along. The cold has not paused for our brief interaction. I follow along quickly. While we walk and we talk I notice that she still looks forward and I still glance at her to my side, but this time that which I see isn’t passing by. That’s new for me. I notice she glances to the side at me from time to time. When I catch her, she smiles. Perhaps not always looking forward is something new to her. Perhaps she’s not had a reason to look to her side.
Perhaps it’s a victory shared between us. Maybe the black hole of loneliness is the grip from which we’ve both broken free.