Getting off of the evening workday train commute has a rich set of sensations and experiences all its own.
At 7:00, after being crammed in with the tired, the huddled masses, you step out into a windy tunnel or a funky-smelling stop and hurry home through the aenemic late-winter (or permanent, in the case of SF) cold back home. You replay the winnings and failings of the day and hope that you have enough ingredients at home for dinner so that you don’t have to go to Safeway and wait in that line (“I hear there’s an unemployment crisis, why can they not staff a few more people at rush hour”). You wonder why that woman gave you the stink eye, what, did she think she could stand in the entry doorway and not get jostled in a packed train?
Some times you wonder if you can bear it again.1
The other day I suggested to meet Lauren at the Chuch street stop. I waited for her on the bridge that spans over the two train tracks. The rumble of the trains thrummed beneath my feet, the 70’s vintage orange tile rested aginst my leg and I watched the trains dart under the visual horizon of the tunnels' edges and on to places like West Portal and the Embarcadero.
But one of those trains was different, it was carrying my sweetheart. If you’ve never waiting a sweetheart on a train, it’s a unique thing. It makes you feel rather Edwardian, even if the present generation are a good deal less sooty. When she stepped out I saw her and made a great-big side to side wave.
And so you wait, asking is this the one? Is she in the foremost or aftmost car? And then, brought from a reverie amidst these thoughts, you see her leave the sniffling sardines behind. She’s thinking those quotidian thoughts but this day is different: home was waiting for her here.
I threw a big side to side wave and a smile. She looked about for me on the platform but then heard her name, and saw the wave and I saw the post-train shuffle melt away and turn into a great big smile. Between the souls headed smoothly up the escalator or trudging up the stairs in those thoughts about dinner, cold wind, and Kleenex was a person who was about to be held, greeted warmly, and told the sweetest and tend'rest of nothings.
I felt so lucky to know she was as eager for the peace we share as I was. She walked across the catwalk and I pulled her in close to me, smelling her shampoo and feeling her face on my shoulder.
The electronic bell chimed, and another tube of the everyone else rolled through on to places like Glen Park and Montgomery Station. We remained.
- I’ll take that over a car commute any day, though.