From the other coast:
I took the T to Boston this morning, something I rarely do. It was packed and I found myself surfing on the accordion section connecting the two cars. The swerves were making me a little nauseous, and I couldn’t read, so I did what I tend to do, and I watched people.
Two women having a conversation caught my eye, but at first, I couldn’t tell you why. One had blown-dry-straight traditional Boston Irish red hair almost the color of rust. Her green eyes were black-lined to erase their otherwise invisibility. Her rain coat, navy: standard. The woman facing her was less obvious but probably also Irish, with light brown hair, light brown skin, light brown rain coat. Actually, she was so all one shade, it was like she was dipped in a beige paint, covering everything, even her fingernails.
I noticed her fingernails because she was holding on to the bar of the train, her modest wedding set glimmering brightly against the silver, in direct contrast with her beige being.
Something was off. I couldn’t take my eyes off of them and I couldn’t figure out why. Both Red and Beige were smiling a lot but they felt like futile smiles, with wrinkled eyes that seemed older than the years they otherwise would have boasted. Crinkly crows feet on both of them. Supremely happy. And then, completely sad.
At first, I was paying attention to them for no other reason than because they were so usual here in Boston. There is something beautiful to me about Irish Bostonians. They are weathered, usually, and kind of tough, but they have a sweetness to them that invites you in, and asks you to stay a while.
I spent some time trying to figure out how old they were, ping ponging my gaze from Beige’s crinkled eyes to Red’s un-greying hair, investigating their hands: all four smooth. Red had a similar, if slightly smaller, wedding set, which I only saw once, as she picked at her dark manicure with her right hand. She was wedged between a pink stroller and a tall man, and didn’t seem to need to hold on. I found myself wondering if they each had kids, or if they were still in the moments of marriage before that glorious storm.
And then something changed. Not for them, they were the same, but for me. Red put her chipped nailed hand over Beige’s hand on the pole. And she left it there. She left it there in a way women friends wouldn’t, certainly not the Irish women from my youth. Two light strokes with her pointer finger, and the change swept the air.
The two talked without sound but their lips moved quickly, bookended by tight smiles. Like they were in bed. They kept falling a bit closer and closer to each other as the train buckled. But they kept their distance and whispered and sighed, tiredly.
Red smoothed Beige’s hair quickly, Beige picked a long red hair off Red’s raincoat.
The relief when Red’s stop came was palpable. That seemed odd to me, because they clearly loved being near each other. Saying goodbye, they kissed on the lips, quickly, but maybe a little longer than normal. Nothing to warrant attention. Except maybe mine.