life can hold up unpleasant mirrors

Posted: March 11, 2013 in Uncategorized

In the train station, he is talkative – enough to draw my attention away from the writing I am trying to do and make me stop, look, and listen.  Making conversation with others around him, over there across the room.  I am preoccupied and not interested in joining or hearing the conversation.  Still, I cannot help but overhear.  So by the time i get on the train, I already know that he is married with kids.  I even know his profession and what city he lives in.

As we board, the conductor tells us with regretful reassurance that there aren’t enough seats on the train.  We can all get on, but only two can go up to sit in regular seats for now.  The rest will have to ride in the snack lounge until the next stop, where 8 more will be disembarking.

I don’t like to be “that person” who insists on being served.  So I don’t even try to get one of the two available seats.  I just make my way to the lounge and sit on a bench, carefully stacking my bags on the floor at my feet, trying not to be in the way. 

The guy behind the snack counter/bar is hustling, microwaving overpriced snacks and mixing alcoholic drinks, working the crowd with aggressively good humor.  We, the audience, are enjoying the show, chuckling and glancing at each other to roll our eyes on some of the punch lines.  The line of those buying drinks ebbs and flows, while those of us who don’t have seats sit along the sides, watching.  

And then come the blondes.  Two women, clearly off on a BFF adventure for the weekend.  They are living loud in the way of ladies who dwell onstage at all times, playing to the presumably adoring crowds around them.  They order their drinks with gusto and laughter, clearly on an agenda to get their drunk on.  I watch and try to fade into the wall.  

And then there he is.  The talkative guy from the train depot.  He is standing in line with a big smile, ordering up his drink.  His place in line leaves him standing directly over me and he smiles down…and I realize that’s a question he’s asking me, there in that smile as he tries to pull me into conversation.  Oh.  THAT question.  I don’t get a lot of “that” question from passing strangers – or anyone else, for that matter.  I smile in a way that a previous friend would have termed “abruptly polite” or maybe it was “politely abrupt.”  And I retreat immediately into staring at my Iphone as he settles in beside me, still trying to catch my gaze, still putting the silent question out there 

Then – relief! – the two blondes notice him.. and the firestorm of flirt begins.  At very first opportunity to follow a conductor up to a seat, I flee, bags in hand.  He jokes to my retreating back – “she can’t get away from me fast enough.”  I flip him a frosty smile over my shoulder and pick up speed in my retreat, gratefully following where I am led to a quiet, dark seat where i immediately retreat into a nap. 

Later, I am awakened by the sound of voices behind me.  It is him and one of the blondes.  Both have clearly enjoyed more beverages before the excursion up the stairs.  They share about their kids and marriages – his still current, hers expired.  She is careful to be clear that she is available.  She doesn’t seem bothered by the fact that he technically shouldn’t be. 

I feel like such a dirty snoop in cases like this.  I don’t WANT to eavesdrop.  Don’t want to be the one noticing when you’re trying to cross lines that your wedding ring should have cast in stone.  But they are right there behind me, too tipsy and oblivious to care who might be overhearing them.  Try as I might, I cannot retreat far enough into sleep to escape hearing what they are doing.  By the time we get off the train, he has her email address and phone number and has been reminded in a multitude of not so subtle ways that she hopes he might use them.


I don’t like to measure others’ choices.  I mean, I USED TO.  I used to wear it like a right or a patriotic duty or something.  But I really don’t want to be the judge anymore.  I detest the notion of inserting myself, uninvited, into others’ business.

But I get off the train thinking how glad I am to know that my guy wouldn’t play this game.  Wouldn’t enter the sport of seeing how far he might get with a passing woman on his travels.  How glad I am to live in a safe, secure place with myself and God, where I don’t need to rush of knowing I’ve turned some stranger on while our lives have randomly intersected for an hour along the way. 

Peculiar.  I guess that’s what scripture means, when we are called a peculiar people.  That we are called to be set apart from things like what I unwillingly witnessed on my train travel. 

But I’d be peculiar in an even BETTER way if my first response were to pray for them right away, rather than to walk around thinking judgmental, bitchy, superior thoughts about them for two days before it crossed my mind that they showed their need for prayer. 

So they were misbehaving.  So what?  I’m an ass.  I have no idea what higher authority THEY answer to in their lives, but I DO know the one that is MINE…and I’m pretty sure I didn’t make Him smile with my Karen-as-God-and-Judge routine for the last couple of days.

Sure am glad He’s more gracious with me than I am with passing strangers…


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