There’s a woman in the bus seat across from me wearing a quilted long puffer coat with a folded Louis Vuitton garment bag in her lap. At her feet stand an unmarked brown shopping bag (I presume from a sample sale) and an overstuffed, double-bagged Carnegie Deli bag, except it’s not Carnegie Deli. But, it’s close enough. She looks like a young Marcia Gay Hardon, more hard than gay. Good eyebrows. I’ve always found brunette women the most beautiful; I think because they’re so different from my fair everything. She looks warm, beyond her layers: warm and complete, in pressed jeans, crease in tact. A tattered Oprah List book, suede shoes. I want her life; she reminds me of an old friend I miss. She looks like she leads a cozy life full of sisters, where they watch good TV beneath a comforter on a sofa together. She drinks hot beverages and snacks on apples, sliced into wedges on a plate with smears of peanut butter. Maybe she’s a schoolteacher with an expensive husband. I imagine she has a sweet liquid laugh, the kind of woman you want to delight, just to hear her. I want to write about her and tell her so, let her know, a stranger sees her as remarkably beautiful, nurturing, and warm—all without a word. But if I give her a card, she’ll over think and raise an eyebrow. I’ll give it to her anyway.
I didn’t have a card, so I tore a sheet of paper from my notebook, folded it quickly as my bus stop approached, and as I handed it to her I said, “I’m sorry, but I have to give you this.” I don’t know why I apologized. I do that too often. At my last job, a woman accidentally walked in on me while I was on the toilet, and I quickly apologized to her. “Oh, God, sorry.” Sorry?! It’s the same when someone phones me in the middle of the night with, “Sorry, did I wake you?” It’s 3a.m; I’m in a clamor to sit up, and in my best mock-alert voice I offer, “Oh no, I was up.” As if there’s something wrong with being asleep? I can’t admit it? Instead, I apologize for sounding tired.
The woman on the bus was startled. She looked, at the moment I handed her the paper, as if she thought I might eat her. When I got off the bus, I imagined she read what I’d written on the page and almost shared it with the passenger beside her. Curious, nervous, why me, and who was that redhead? I imagine I’d feel the same way. I just wanted her to know, if maybe she was having a bad day, just based on her book cover, she seemed fulfilled and happy, but maybe that’s more about what I wanted to see than anything to do with her. Maybe I just miss my friend and have been in need of her warm comfort. Or at least a proper winter coat.