When you ride the same train every day, you start to notice the regulars.
In the morning: The elderly man who is always speaking to the young girl with the pixie cut. It’s hard to determine if she knows him, or is just too polite to ask him to leave her be. The woman with the caramel curls who wears a pencil skirt and plays one of those micro-managing, build-your-own town apps on her phone for the full 25 minute ride. The tall girl with the library tote bag who meets up with her curly-haired friend at your stop every day, and they recount their evenings as they take the stairs together.
In the evening: The short man who will speak to anyone who makes eye contact with him about the train schedule he seems to have memorized. It’s obvious he can’t stand there in silence and I try very hard to stare at my book when he’s scouting for his next conversing victim. The man in the electric wheelchair who must ask people to move from the disabled seating every single day, and I wonder at how frustrating that must be. The elderly woman who makes a brief phone call every time we cross the first bridge to let the voice on the other end know where she is.
It makes me wonder who, if anyone, has pegged me as a regular. Do they notice the difference between the days I opt for comfort over style? The days I wear a dress and curl my hair versus the days of the messy bun and over sized sweatshirt? Do they notice that I make an effort to not be one of those people who just sits on my phone during the commute? Do they notice when I’m reading a different book? If they do notice, how would they describe me when speaking of the regulars? Would they notice the days I struggle the hardest with getting out of bed and facing the looming pressure of social interaction? The days I feel no clothes fit quite right and even my own skin seems built for someone else. The days where my soul feels heavy with exhaustion before I’ve even left the bed. Would they notice the days when it feels as though the sun has finally pierced through some eternal winter cloud and I am prepared, even optimistic, about the work day ahead of me? The days the tension in my chest dissipates and I remember what it is to breathe free of constraint.
Or maybe they don’t notice me at all and I am just another body on the overcrowded train.