You are alone when you board the train, alone as you walk down the aisle searching for a seat, alone as you tip slightly when the crowded train car sways, alone when you jerk open the heavy door to the next car, alone despite the line of impatient people waiting behind you.
Here is a seat at last next to a young woman, perhaps in her thirties, whose eyes you will never know the color of because she stares out the window and never turns towards you.
You will sit beside her for a handful of minutes of your life, but you will never know what her voice sounds like — whether it is deep and rich or soft and gentle — although in that moment you want to speak to her, to anyone. But the words are heavy in your mouth and slip back down your throat.
You wish someone were waiting for you at the apartment, someone into whose face you could smile and tell about your day. But there will only be the mute shadows that dissolve away into the corners of the room when you switch the lights on, and the mewing of the gray cat anxious for his dinner.
It will be good to call a friend after you’ve reached the apartment and taken off your shoes and fed the cat and warmed up leftovers for yourself in the microwave.
But which friend? You’ve lost touch with so many since moving to this new city, and they’d probably all be asleep by now, wouldn’t they?
Yet, surely your mom or dad will answer, even if you do wake them. They will drown out your words with their own at first, telling you how much they miss you, and then they will listen quietly as the words tumble out of you.
But first there is this long stretch of night to travel through and the loneliness of a train car crowded with passengers who you cannot speak to.
The other passengers will blur into a fabric of colors after this night, but this woman you will always remember, though you catch only a glimpse of her face.
It is the rings on her delicate hands. For some reason that will stay with you.
The thin gold rings stacked on nearly every finger and the thick rings with giant gemstones and the silver ring that twists around the pinky on her left hand and looks like it has the head of a fox.
You wish you could ask her about the ring, if only she would slip the earbuds out for just a second, but she is far out of reach now, in her cocoon of music.
And it is as if you had only a glimpse of her life, looking in from a window, a glimpse of the lives of all of these strangers, and the train car is but a passageway.
On some nights a stranger will open their window briefly; they will talk to you and let you steal a glance inside their world, but not tonight.
Tonight there is only the rumbling of the train and the indistinct hum of music from a countless number of passengers’ devices.
Perhaps you will slip in your earbuds too and let the train lull you to sleep…your eyes are heavy anyway…but only for a moment…the cat will be furious if he must wait longer for dinner because you miss your stop.
Nicole Bianchi is a writer, copywriter, and storyteller at nicolebianchi.com. By day, she works with business owners and creatives to help them craft compelling words that resonate with their audience. By night, you’ll probably find her writing a story or reading a good book. Get her favorite writing and productivity tips from famous writers.