I take the subway to work every morning, and back home every evening. Yesterday on the subway ride home, there was a girl sitting down a couple steps from where I clung to the silver pole, swaying.
She wasn’t anything much. Her face was round, eyes lidded and downcast, with a long straight nose and thin lips. Hair swept in wispy strands around her face, escaping from a ponytail. She was sitting next to an old woman in a bright orange hat, who’d fallen asleep and was gently collapsed on the hard plastic seat. The darkness of each tunnel flushed over the car, until it emerged again into the stolid bustling light of a station. I wasn’t getting off until 28th.
The girl was reading something. It was buried in the coat she held in her lap – hardly necessary in the sudden burst of heat that had overtaken us – and the purse clutched close to it. I couldn’t tell what it was, among the folds and edges. Perhaps a book, or a pamphlet, or a magazine. Whatever it was, she was reading it intently, her eyes steady and fixed and her mouth tight with concentration.
I was looking at her idly, and as she bent over the words in her lap she struck me suddenly. She was not pretty, and nothing about her was extraordinary. Still, as she read so carefully, she inclined her head toward what she was reading. It was simply that which was striking. The angle and shadow of her collarbones, and the little hollow made by her tension, and the graceful sloping curve of her neck until it disappeared into that feathery hair.
My stop came up quickly, as it wasn’t a very long subway ride. I got off and walked home, marveling. Even now I cannot forget that ordinary girl, and the very beautiful way she bent so still and quiet. The loveliness, the stark beauty, hasn’t faded. The line of her neck sinking into her shoulder still traces through my mind, and I am awed.