I had seen the old lady before, getting on at 79th riding up to Clark division.
She sat in the same place each day, rain or shine, while I went further up the rail, to my job near Argyle. While the Chicago commuter car rocked back and forth, and we all read our papers or phones, it was her eyes that seared and scared me a little each time I looked at her.
Those eyes looked past us living things, back into time itself.
She usually dressed in some bluish or pink dress, ages old, worn in many places. Given the cold of winter, an old snow parka, drab and gray, was added to her smallish self.
But in those eyes, written by the battles she had fought and lost, showed the deepest of pain.
One day in April, I ran late for my connection, shoved the closing door and plopped down into the first empty seat, with a heavy sigh of thankfulness.
There she was beside me.
I squirmed a little knowing she was there, but there were no more seats in the car.
15 minutes, half a dozen stops later, and she started talking. My ears were shocked by her voice.
I had never seen or heard her talk.
“I still have a heart, you know? Though it was bruised when I was a child, later when I was older, finally as a wife and mother, I still have a heart. It still feels and wants another, nearby. I remember how it swelled when I thought someone loved me. Sometimes feeling like it would burst, take over my thoughts and make me sweat. But, later, after it got bruised and all so many times, if it started to feel that way I’d stop it. I would think about all the times I got hurt, make the swelling go away. I would not let my heart get bruised again!”
I could not move and absolutely did not know what to say.
“I might not wake tomorrow or the next day, or the day after, but I want to say this out loud for life and love.”
Now, I had turned looking at her, plunging deep into those drowning eyes.
“I still have a heart and wish I had one more love.”
I got off my stop that day without saying a word to her.
All day at work, I wished I had said this, that, or the other.
I could not come up with one decent thing to say.
When I got home, I started writing all kinds of things down to say to her tomorrow.
“How are you? What a lovely dress! I see you here all the time on this train!”
Next day, I made sure I was at my stop early.
I was determined to sit with her and say something nice.
I got on as soon as the doors swished open, but she wasn’t there.
Nor the next day, nor the next.
I felt so bad.
I hope I never leave a naked heart alone again.