Heading home last night, on the 8:51, after a rigorous cleaning of my work desk, I was in a four-seater on NJ Transit, sitting across from a middle-aged man with wire-framed glasses, in navy blue dress pants, blue tie, and light blue shirt, texting on an iPhone 6—he had a gold watch too. I left home pretty early yesterday, and my mind was kind of hazy by that hour . . . yet this man reminded me of another man, on another commute, several months ago, on an equally long day . . .
It was back in June, and I was thinking about the lazy days of summer ahead, when I boarded the 8:05 from Penn Station. I headed toward the quiet car as usual, when I “saw” the president of a publishing house I do a lot of business with; I like this guy—he’s witty, clever, and somehow or other he’s never lost the enthusiasm of a twelve-year-old kid (he’s a shark too but you really can’t tell at first glance). He makes you pay attention. I kinda wondered why he was on the Maplewood train (he doesn’t live in Maplewood), but it didn’t really register in my brain-soft state.
I walked up to him, gave him a hug, and kissed his cheek . . .
“Hi,” I said.
He grinned . . .
I took a step back—he was tall, with short grey-black hair just like my friend, but when I looked at his face, I realized he was much older than the man I knew . . .
oh my god.
I fled to a seat in another car—had I really just kissed a complete stranger?
I never told anybody about what happened that night on the train, but it seems like the right time to tell it now . . . because . . . I don’t know . . . just that despite the election, despite the state of the world, despite everything really . . . that guy’s grin is sticking with me . . . and it’s making me smile too.