I went to the city on Sunday to have brunch with high school friends. The unseasonably warm weather made standing on the platform a delightful opportunity to absorb Vitamin D, rather than the desperate attempt to fend off bitingly cold wind that it might have been mid-February.
I welcomed the change of scenery – everyone needs to get off the Post Road now and then – almost as much as the temperate temperatures and the opportunity to reconnect with friends.
While the platform was sparsely populated, the train overflowed with riders. I found the reason for the crowd in the number of passengers clad in blue NY Rangers jerseys. They were heading to the Garden to watch a fight. I mean hockey game.
On boarding, I quickly scanned left and right to see if I could espy an empty seat, but I saw a sea of heads. I just took my chance, followed my instincts, and chose right.
A young Japanese couple cuddled in one three-seat bench, their coats and cases occupying the third, and aisle, seat. I was more reluctant to stand all the way to New York than to disturb their reverie, so I asked: “I’m so sorry to bother you. Could I please sit here?” A conductor with long, crimped blond hair had just arrived to collect tickets. “Please move your things to the overhead racks. The train is very full,” she added.
Now I felt even worse. Not only had I invaded their space, I’d also inadvertently gotten them reprimanded. But they agreed and complied, nonplussed, making quick work of folding and storing their belongings. They demurred at my apologies and thanks.
I settled in and tried to make myself small as the conductor scanned the ticket on my iPhone. As my headphones immersed me in Genesis’ Selling England by the Pound, I dove into Sarah Bakewell’s “At the Existentialist Café” – a Christmas gift from my ex and his wife. A full hour with nothing to do but read felt as indulgent and delicious as a tall slice of chocolate fudge cake.
My sitting there gave them an excuse they didn’t need to fold further into themselves. He had close-shorn hair and rectangular wire frame glasses with lenses whose very concave lenses told me of his nearsightedness. His black, velvet-lapeled suit and pointy-toed nearly patent leather shoes reminded me of the Beatles at Shea. She wore a short black stretchy skirt with above-the-knee cable knit socks, and a flouncy, lacy, ethereal white blouse. Her straight, shoulder length black hair fell loose around her shoulders, and peony pink lipstick punctuated her face. She pushed her silken locks back frequently to get a clear view of his bespectacled eyes, which she stared into with unwavering, intense focus. She groomed him, taking off his glasses to wipe them, running her fingers through his spiky hair, and brushing nonexistent lint off his suit jacket. They giggled, cooed, and snapped selfie after selfie. Their hands never left each other. She covered his face with gentle kisses.
Puppy love radiated off them, and I bathed in its positive ions. I was actually glad that I could not understand their chatter; if they had, in fact, been talking about mundane items like electric bills and groceries, it would have completely burst the romantic bubble that surrounded them.
While they occasionally bumped in to me as they rearranged their configuration (for which they profusely apologized), their display did not offend. It never rose to the level of “get a room.” They simply exuded young, innocent, enthusiastic infatuation.
Their mutual adoration filled me with a sweet happiness that spring air brings. I walked toward Bryant Park to meet my friends, where visitors made languid laps around an ice skating rink that seemed anachronistic on a 60-degree day.
Brunch brought a different kind of contentment that comes from spending time with people who know your history. In this case, 45 years of it. We share a deep understanding, unforced ease, and the ability to be completely ourselves together.
So different from the connection I witnessed on the train, filled with all-consuming novelty and wonder. I miss that feeling and felt envious of them. I’d love to feel that titillated again, but also, I feel so immeasurably fortunate for the connection I rekindled during my sojourn to New York.