Today on the train in, I was armed to shut out the world. I had my Shuffle in hand (yes, it’s a regular appendage now), my phone was on text message so I never had to lose touch with my peoples and I donned my shroud of general apathy till I get to my destination. It was working famously till we reached 42nd St. Grand Central Station. A woman walked on to the train. She looked normal enough. Through my periphery, I could see she sat down, very slowly… and was looking in my general direction. I glanced up and locked eyes with her for moment. Latina. Very dark hair. Shoulder length. About 5’4″, 250 lbs. Mid to upper 30s. Tight white crew neck top on, but pulled down so far that you could see the top rim of lace on her bra. Black capris. Sandals. Large black bag in her hand. And she was staring at me. So I did my regular defense: Look away quickly and never make eye contact again. Unless the person is crazy (which sometimes they are) they look away and that’s that. I could feel her gaze was on me for while longer, but it wasn’t a gaze of recognition or resentment… she just so happened to be fixed on me in her thoughts at that moment. When I got uncomfortable enough, I stood up and went over to one of the doors. From my aerial, I got a better understand of what was happening. After I got up, she was still staring in my seated direction. But I wasn’t sitting there anymore. And she was slowly leaning forward. She almost fell, but didn’t. Right before she would have tumbled out of the seat, she “regained consciousness” and straightened her self up. I kept watching. I needed to confirm what I was seeing. She smiled at the couple sitting next to her and mouthed something to them, which they nodded and smiled back at her and then looked at each other with a “that was weird” look on their faces. She looked like she started to go through her bag for something… and in mid rummaging, her movements slowed… she started to lean to her right very very slowly until she was almost laying across the train seats. But before she could go all the way down, she straightened up and started doing what looked like examining her purse strap. Oh god, I thought to myself, that was a true to life nod. I hadn’t seen one in YEARS. And I didn’t know if anyone else knew what it was. My eyes darted around the train car and about 6 or 7 other pairs of fixated eyes were watching her stupor. They knew. Our eyes met around the car and our general sensation was, “We know what it is… what can we do?” But there were only 2 more stops. And life would whisk us off to our predetermined destinations. There wasn’t time to do anything. But we all watched carefully to make sure she didn’t fall.
I walked out of the train at Times Square thinking… if I felt helpless like that in the few moments that I saw her, I can only imagine what her family is going through. I prayed for them and her today. I hope they see light soon.