She hurried down the steps of the 6th avenue station, sliding through the doors of the train as they closed. She couldn’t bear to wait for the other train, it was summer in New York City, and this station lacked the privilege of the large fan engulfed with dust on 14th. She slid between two people to sit down, placing her workout bag between her feet. Her purse she placed on her lap, propping her arms to hold the book in just the right way. The Death of Mr. Ilych intrigued her– she was engrossed. She smiled to herself at the wit of Tolstoy– exposing the human stain of greed.
She felt her eyes roam to the guy next to her, he too was reading. She stretched her neck over to see if she could get a glimpse of the book’s title; she was not successful. He looked up, their eyes met, she asked, “What are you reading?” He told her the title–some political book on the state of American politics. “Interesting book, you should read it,” he said.
She was not a fan of books like that; she preferred discussing politics than reading an entire book on the subject. Her education came from Democracy Now, NPR and the major newspapers. She loved fiction. She smiled at him. He continued, “I see you’re reading Tolstoy, never read him before. Friends of mine have read him. How do you like him?” She was amused by his honesty and admitted that she just began to read a couple of his short stories, that Tolstoy surprised her, for she thought that authors like him were read by pretentious people. She realized that while she was saying this to him, he was looking into her eyes attentively, as if trying to read them. It felt comfortable though—she realized that she liked being read by him.
The conversation ended with him saying that he would give Tolstoy a try. She dug into her purse and took out her ipod; her parents lived an hour away and she needed some background music to accompanying her mental picture of Mr. Ilych. She selected jazz, though classical music might have been more fitting. As the train rocked back and forth, she never forgot the stranger next to her, reading his book. She felt, rather oddly, that he should be next to her. She wanted more from the interaction but she was too shy to say something else to him.
Finally he got up, before he did, he gave her a little nudge to say bye. She looked up and smiled, he returned the gesture, looming over her before the doors of the train parted. She watched him leave the station, his tall lean body walking slowly through the turnstile. She hoped that he could read her mind, “meet me here same time, same place, tomorrow?” She knew that she would not see him again, she was in town to visit her family for a week, but the nudge felt like home.
Copyright © 2008 RNLH