She looked at me from across the crowds, and our eyes locked. A connection was made between us in that instant, and the moment seemed to last forever.
She walked stiff-backed and unpolished through the train station, head held high, wrapped in an unpatterned blue kerchief that concealed most of her dirty-blond locks. They slicked down her back, silk and gossamer on the dark fabric, light shimmering, playing and chasing away as she moved under the fluorescent fixtures in the ceiling. Her hands sat gentle and idle in her lap as she strode. Her cheeks had been pinched almost to bruising and the purple-tinged pink of them stood sharp on her creamy, pale flesh. No make-up adorned her face, a tired face. A young woman, too young to be so tired. I can see the lines that will form on her face, beginning their ascent to the surface of her perfect, smooth skin. Lines around her mouth, between her eyebrows, next to her nostrils, under her eyes. Fatigue lines, of hard living and struggle, threatening to rise to the fore, age and wear not yet finding their way to the present, made known in a life not quite. Not quite happy, not quite content, not quite easy, not quite blessed. She wears the worry of the future on her visage and only some see it. She’s plain and simple and humble, only black and dark blue clothing, squeaking, heavy black work shoes, well-worn, hands callused and heart too, from too much hard labor and no end of it in sight.
Time froze when I saw her. The denizens ceased their bustle, the din of the masses faded to my heartbeat, my breathing, and her cerulean eyes burned into me as she moved past, toward the hall, toward the corridor to the escalator to the outside doors to the world, the thrumming, thronging, thriving city.
In slow motion our eyes met. In slow motion her head, regal and tired and wondering and uncaring, turned, just a touch, just a hair, almost imperceptible.
Our eyes locked and a connection was made. I felt it. I know she felt it.
Hers flitted down again, toward the ground, so no eye contact is made with strangers, with staring wonderers who make judgments, whisper behind their hands, smirk and laugh. Better not to see. Better to move with quiet dignity. What do they know? They’re heathens, lost, sinners, they not naught of God or purity or kindness. It’s a cruel veil of tears, the world. Better to pray a silent plead for strength and protection and leave this evil place.
The man in the wide-rimmed hat, also dressed in simple, unadorned black and blue clothes, a beard hanging five inches below his chin, no mustache on his lip, stared at a rattling piece of paper in his knobby, rough fingers. His bushy brows held the brim of his hat off his eyes, his simple haircut secured by the chapeau, his steps more sure, his stride a man’s stride, confident and knowing. I saw his eyes before he turned, and caught the fear, the worry, the concern in their inky depths. He can’t show his weakness, his fear. Another, younger man trailed to his right, a rotund and hardy woman behind to his left, and she follows the other three.
She made no outward acknowledgment of the connection. Her lips never moved, and yet I detected it, heard it, saw her mouth the words.