On the John
Jumping back on the train
Originally published on the readjack.com blog June 4, 2009
It was Monday. I was heading downtown to the office, hopping on the Damen Blue Line for a run to my Clark/Lake transfer. A beautiful June afternoon where sleeves were short and life was light. And of course, with that stubborn Chicago weather finally relenting to the calendar, the girls in their skirts and shades were making the sun shine that much brighter.
I caught eyes with one such lovely, in fact, a cute little red head seated on one of the platform benches. She was wearing sunglasses, but I could still tell. A quick and friendly nod hello, then a quicker smile between us, and that was all. I stood and waited, reading. The train arrived. The red haired girl and I boarded the same car. Doors closing. Division is next. In the direction of travel, doors open on the left at Division. The doors closed.
I was all set to continue my reading and carry on with the silent-train-riding routine. Presumably, so was she. But once we both were situated, we found ourselves looking at each other once more. At first it was just another nod and smile, the same as on the platform. I would return to my reading, and then my eyes would pop back up and find hers. I looked around the car. Everyone else was silent. Ear buds, newspapers, texting, checking the time.
My stop came. She remained seated, and as I exited I gave her one last look, a “so this is Goodbye from that stranger on the El” glance. She returned it, and that should have been that, yet we were still looking at each other. I could not look away. The doors were soon to close. I was heading for the escalator, yet there we were. She took off her shades and really looked. We exchanged a laughing, smiling kind of laugh-smile, one that said, “I can’t believe we are still looking at each other!” Doors closing. Washington is next…
…and with that, I lunged back onto the train, slipping through the closing doors, and in one motion extended my hand as the train took off. “I’m Jack. And you?”
We had a small chat, she gave me her number, and I exited two stops later to catch the line going the other way, back to Clark and Lake.
Immediately I called my brother. “Yo, I just had this great movie moment.” And I told him.
“Whoa.” He paused. “Seriously?”
He turned away from the phone and started shouting to a friend in the room. “So my brother saw this girl on the train…” And then he came back. “That’s amazing, bro! What a story!”
At the office, I told my two bosses. They loved it. My brother, my bosses, my roommates, my best female friend, even my dad—everybody was pumped. And I was too. I’d tried to play it cool for a bit there, but my enthusiasm was overwhelming.
After all, once you’ve jumped back on the train, life can never be as it was. I’ve had the urge to do so thousands of times, to nab a conversation before I depart or say hello to that girl at the bar only to see her pay her bill and leave. And there’s that moment when if I just go right now, right now, come on, there’s still time, she hasn’t left yet…she’s probably not too far down the block…I could run down the block and say hello, tell her I saw her and just wanted to know her name, that I’d chased her down the street just to know her name…and now she’s definitely gone. The moment is definitely gone.
So what was different this time? Much of it was her. I’m a sucker for red hair and eyes so piercing they grab you through dark glasses. Certainly if she hadn’t been returning my look with such zealous calculation, perhaps I would not have been so gripped. Still though, I was off the train, nearly at the escalator! As great as she was, she hadn’t kept me from getting that far.
Which means something inside me grabbed hold and took over. And that’s what’s so great. I didn’t make a decision to jump back on the train…my body just up and did it for me. I did not become a different person. I merely experienced a revelation: I have it in me to jump back on the train.
And that’s what makes life exciting: those moments when you realize you possess some trait long assumed dormant or even absent entirely. It exists in me: now it’s my responsibility to utilize it. And what about her? Without telling you how things have progressed (must you know everything?), her life is changed as well. Indeed, for the rest of her days, she will know that someone jumped back on the train just for her. Maybe that will give her the courage to do the same, or provide her the noodge needed to glare through those glasses at the next guy, granting him the right to make the leap himself.
Copyright 2009, jm silverstein
More stories from readjack.com featuring the Wicker Park/Bucktown area
From June 2, 2009 (the bar was CANS): All hail the Chicago Blue Sox!
From May 2, 2009: pre-Bulls-Celtics Game 7…a reflection on Bulls games watched at Northside
From May 1, 2009: Bulls-Celtics at Northside Grill…the Tale of Game 6
From October 16, 2008: A weird one (a walk up North, between Ashland and Damen)