I was running late. I’d left work late. The quick errand I was going to run before jumping on the train wasn’t quick at all. The train got stuck in the tunnel for a little while. I was late, late, late.
I was going to 23rd Street. I was going somewheree I’ve gone over and over and over again. Not new territory, not some place I needed to worry about remembering the directions. So why did I get off the train at 14th Street instead of 23rd? Why did it take me the time to climb the stairs and almost pass through the turnstile — time during which I heard another train arrive and leave — before I realized I was at the wrong stop? I was going to be even later! My friends were waiting for me, and I was so, so, so LATE.
I walked back down to the platform, trying to puzzle out what was going on with me that made me leave the train early. I noticed that I got cell reception on the platform and texted my friends. I took a few deep breaths. It was true that I was late, but it was also true that my friends would be incredibly nice and understanding about it. I told myself that a few times. I took a few more deep breaths.
I heard a train coming. It wasn’t the train I expected, but it would stop at 23rd. I walked a little further up the platform as I waited for it to stop. I positioned myself by a door — a few feet back so the folks getting off wouldn’t feel crowded. I saw a tall woman get up and walk to the door. I noticed her because she was at the door right in front of me, because she was tall, because she had a vibrant purple head scarf on …
And then the doors opened, and her face lit up, and I looked at her and saw that she wasn’t just some tall woman in a purple hat-not-a-head-scarf. She was D___, a former co-worker, a beautiful, wonderful woman whose recent health struggles I’ve been following third-hand through another friend, whose vibrant purple hat is covering her chemo-erased scalp, but whose smile is magnificent and whose eyes are full of laughter.
I was late, late, late …
I let two trains pass, just standing on the platform hugging D___. We would stop hugging, exchange two or three words and hug again. I let two trains pass because how could I do anything but stand on that platform and hug D___?
I told her I wasn’t supposed to be there, that I should already have been at 23rd Street, should have stayed on the train before hers, that I’d been trying to figure out what had made me get off my train early. And there she was. I had my answer.
We should never have run into one another. My errand should have taken half the time it did. I should have caught an earlier train and stayed on it to the correct stop. Even after my delays, when I went back down to wait for the next train, I could have stayed at the downtown end of the platform instead of walking up a little as D___’s train pulled into the station and I’d never have seen her exit a car and a half ahead of me.
That was a present. The cosmos saying, “Here, baby. I got this special for you.”
See all of today’s slices at Two Writing Teachers.