Monday, December 10, 2012

Strange Boy

      As most of you probably know by now, I love taking the Los Angeles Subway. It's cheap, time-saving (usually), and you encounter so many different and interesting people. I know I've "showcased" a few of the more...colorful... types of people that I've encountered on here before, but this time I want to talk about an entirely different sort of experience I had. This one was different than any other I've ever had on the subway or metro... This was surreal, and entirely inexplicable, and it's worthy of a post on here.

     About a year or so ago, my younger brother and I were on the subway, en route to Little Tokyo for a bowl of ramen. Now, prior to taking the subway, we first have to arrive in North Hollywood, which we accomplish by taking the Orange Line. At the time this story occurred, the new stops in Chatsworth didn't exist yet, so we boarded the Orange Line at Warner Center, which was originally the first stop of the Orange Line. So that meant that we had spent about an hour on the Orange Line before arriving to the Subway. (Nothing of real interest occurred on the ride on the Orange Line this time around). So, we get to the Red Line (subway) at last. We board the train, but since we were a little late, we had to scramble on board. After nearly getting decapitated by a closing door (yes, this happens to me frequently on these excursions), we made it into the packed train car. Obviously, there were no seats to be had by this point, so we made our way to the center pole. I wrapped my arms around the pole and held myself close to it. My brother, who, although being 2.5 years younger than I am, is about 6ft tall, grasped the pole with one long arm above my head.
     At this point, I was sleepy. Subway rides are practically the equivalent to the Poppy Field in the "Wizard of Oz"; almost instantaneously upon setting foot in a train car, I begin to fall asleep. Now you can imagine that it's difficult to sleep in a standing position while clinging to a pole in a car full of people. Not to mention fear of pick-pockets. So I clung closely to the pole, with my brother standing behind me, arm over my head, standing in close proximity in order to protect me. I turned my head up to see his face, got his attention, and notified him of my intent to sleep on the pole, and instructed him to be on the lookout for any funny-business, and told him to watch my stuff if he could. He vehemently agreed, apparently honoured by his new position of being my "bodyguard". I knew I was in good hands, so I drifted off. We had a long ride ahead of us; our stop was the second to last on the Red Line, which meant I had ample time to sleep. I closed my eyes, and allowed myself to drift off as the telltale signs of the train taking off began to stir.
     First, there's this sort of exhaust sound. Presumably that's just the engines getting started or something of the like. Then the lights sort of flicker on. (This has little effect on the actual lighting situation; the lights are very dim and almost yellowishly dull). Then, a woman's voice comes on the intercom, pre-recorded of course. "Doors are now closing". A little bell dings twice, the doors shut, just as the robot woman warned us of. The car shudders, then starts up. It slowly lurches forward, the whirring of the motors and engines creating a sort of dull, mechanical lullaby, percussed by the buzz of the electric lighting. It was to this mundane, banal lullaby that I fell asleep for a while.
     About 2 or 3 stops in, the car slowly came to a stop. I'm not entirely sure why I awoke upon this arrival, but I looked up as the car pulled up to the stand, my eyes adjusting to the dull lights now contrasted with the fluorescent lights of the station itself. I noticed something strange, something almost surreal, as the car came to a full stop... A boy, or maybe a young man, seemingly ageless, standing on the platform.
     Now there are typically many many different boys, guys, men, etc., on any given platform at any given time. Never before had one stood out so starkly to me. This boy, this being, he had the kindest face of any person I have yet to encounter in my life. I glanced at him momentarily, not wanting to gawk. He smiled the gentlest, most sincere smile, and tipped his fedora-type hat to me. I blushed, put my head back down, and attempted to go back to sleep, figuring that he would board the train and take the single open seat that had just been vacated by the old lady who had been previously snoring.
     I rubbed my eyes with my left hand, while I continued to grasp the pole with my right. I let my left arm drop to my side, tired from clinging to the pole as I had been. I closed my eyes, fully intending to sleep again until our stop arrived. After about a minute or so, again, the robotic voice comes over the intercom "Doors closing!" ::ding ding:: "Next stop, such-and-such station". By this point, i was half asleep again, not paying attention to the next stop signal. After the train had begun its course again, about a minute in, I felt a warm hand slip into mine.
     I drowsily looked up, turned around to confront my brother on this uncharacteristic and bizarre display of affection. I was going to tell him "you're doing fine protecting me, but don't you think this is a bit much?". But before I could utter anything, I glanced at the hand so softly placed in my own, I followed the arm attached to the hand up... It didn't belong to my brother, which was somewhat of a relief. But what was this, what kind of forward stranger gets onto a train and holds hands with a sleeping girl?
     The slender arm was encased by a light blue long sleeve... The arm was attached to a shoulder, about level with my eyes. The shoulder led to a neck, and the neck to a face... What on earth. My heart leapt to my throat; the angelic boy from the platform, the arm, the shoulder, the neck, the face, and the warm, soft hand... All belonged to him.
     Our eyes met. I scanned his face, at a loss for words. He had the most lovely complexion I've ever seen; it was fair, but not pale, with the slightest misting of light freckles delicately arranged over the bridge of his nose and just cresting his rosy cheeks. His hair was the color of the golden straw that grows on the hills around here during summer. He wore a most interesting hat; it appeared to be some sort of straw fedora, which ordinarily I would find completely odd, but he wore it so well. The way his cheek bones were set made him appear so boyish, so kind... Even in the hideous lighting, this boy appeared radiant, almost glowing.
     After scanning his face for any sense of his intentions, my eyes met with his again. His eyes were perhaps the most intriguing. Dark brown, like the color of freshly ground coffee, but with almost a rust tinge to them... Perhaps the most adequate description of the color of his enigmatic eyes would be something akin to cherrywood, although entirely more full of life than that. I searched his eyes for some motive, some intention, but I could find none. He was looking deeply into my own eyes as well, but didn't seem concerned as I was with motives. He smiled ever so slightly at me, almost reassuringly. We held our gaze for much longer than I would with anyone. I have never seen such kind and honest eyes in anyone before. His eyes were devoid of deceit, greed, lust, violence, and every other form of malignant human intent. They were pure, they were innocent. They were very rare.
     After this searching of faces occurred, as he smiled ever so gently at me, I could find no words, no objection to this bizarre scenario. I smiled at him, my cheeks flushed with confusion and slight embarrassment, and I did something strange then.
     I lowered my head, which is typical response for me after prolonged periods of eye contact. But this time, it wasn't out of shame, confusion, or awkward self-awareness. This time, I lowered my head out of contentment. I grasped the pole with my right arm as the train continued on, and my left hand still contained the hand of my new companion.
     Silently, we traveled on through the corridors and tunnels, standing on the shuddering floor of the car. I shut my eyes and smiled, still holding the strange boy's hand.
     A few stops later, the train slowly came to a stop at another platform. I felt the slight hand slip out of our gentle grasp. I opened my eyes, and looked up just in time to see the strange boy departing. He exited the train, without saying a word. He turned back, smiled his gentle smile at me one last time, and slowly waved to me as the train lurched forward, embarking to its next stop. I smiled back at him, and returned his gesture. He doffed his cap, and bowed slightly, then looked up with his kind eyes gleaming, the apples of his cheeks flushed, his amber-coloured hair now slightly tousled. I just looked at him and smiled, waving goodbye, knowing I would never encounter this ethereal character again.
     My brother looked down at me and asked "what just happened..." and I looked back up at him and said "I'm not very sure... But it was nice". 
     To this day, I can't entirely explain this event. Normally, I wouldn't tolerate holding anyone's hand on a subway. I wouldn't tolerate someone looking deeply into my eyes, searching my soul like that; I would avert my eyes and try to avoid that person, awkwardly. And, if anyone tries that type of thing, I would normally say something to them.
     This entire encounter, not one word was shared between the strange boy and myself. Maybe that's what made it okay. Maybe that's what made it beautiful.
     I can't explain my connection with this strange boy, either. It certainly wasn't one of attraction; I had no notion of flirting with him, and neither did he with me. There was no real intent even, for friendship... No words were spoken, nothing about this experience was made complex by the use of the human language. There was no need involved, either. He didn't want money, he didn't want to hit on me, he didn't have any ulterior motives. And neither did I.
     In those moments, while we silently held hands and enjoyed the subway ride together, it's as though we transcended the social norms of humanity. Neither of us wanted or needed anything from the other. We simply and silently formed trust between us, and lived that moment in the most beautiful and comfortable silence I have ever experienced with a stranger. We enjoyed simple human companionship, perhaps as it's meant to be, and then parted ways, with no sadness, no regrets, only a beautiful and lovely memory of the simple and short time we spent together, enjoying our silent, simple companionship.

     This all sounds so odd, but truly, this is one memory that I will cherish forever. This is the standout memory I have with regards to the most silently salient experience with a stranger. And I will treasure it always.

     To my strange-boy with the straw coloured hair: if you're out there, I hope you're doing well. I hope your life is as beautiful as your soul is. And may you never stop giving people like me hope in the human race.

1 comment:

  1. WOW.... you should be a writer on the side. Not even joking. :)