Cast of Characters, part 1. The people I observed while riding a commuter train to and from work everyday.
I noticed Curly Sue first. She’s sort of a bookworm-ish type; glasses, academic, studious look to her, but her high-energy and tense presence screamed type-A. Her tresses fell about her shoulders and down her back in ringlets. They weren’t too tight, or too small, and were perpetually wet. Her near-black locks matched her rich, dark eyes. When she walked it was with intent, purpose, never sacheting or meandering, and her pant material swished and zipped as her feet swung in rapid, choppy steps.
Most days she wore black pants and a quilted jacket. I first noticed her in March, which isn’t all that warm ‘round these parts. I found Curly Sue most mornings sitting in the train depot, her iPod chirping its tiny clicks as she rattled through her playlist selections. She sat on the hard wooden bench, stiff-backed and proper, as if she were uncomfortable sitting still. After she set up all the desired songs, she’d pop up like a Jack-in-the-Box and pump her feet back and forth in their fast, smooth arc to walk to the end of the platform and wait for the train, zip-zopping out of earshot before the door swung closed.
Curly Sue never spoke or smiled, never gave notice to anyone unless someone spoke first. She had a rock on her finger the size of Gibraltar when I first noticed her, but seemed far too young to be married. She carried a huge backpack, and a tote bag in her free hand. Her bird-like motions and energy always made me feel like I moved in slow motion, sluggish, lethargic. If I tried to keep up with her I’d be breathless and sweating despite the cold. She wore crisp, white sneakers for her walking commute at the end of the line in Big City, but I never saw which way she went. I never even saw her get off the train … or on it, for that matter. She’d go to the end of the platform and then I didn’t see her anymore.
I started noticing, when I took later trains home, Curly Sue rode in the upper deck, in the same car I did. I would acknowledge her with a slight nod and trace of a smile, but if she returned it I never noticed. I didn’t mind. She spent her commute home on the phone or working on her computer, and as we neared our stop I often found her huddled in the door wells of the train car chatting with another young woman, about her age but heavier set and mousy.
The only time I saw Curly Sue talk was the day a stranger asked about other train stations in the area. She offered supporting information in a friendly, warm and welcoming voice and tone with The Friendly Woman to the stranger. Curly Sue strode out of the train and down the ramp to the parking lot in her frenetic strides and I’d stop at my car, parked much closer than hers. Thank goodness.
You’ll meet The Friendly Woman tomorrow.
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