ANOTHER TRAIN RIDE
By Paul Beckman
As we approached New Haven Station you walked up towards the front of the car, near my seat, waiting for the train to stop. It moved slowly, in herky-jerky motions. You bent down and looked over my shoulder to see out the window. My wife continued to read, but I turned my head and saw your beautiful young face—you were maybe twenty, twenty-one, tops.
I saw the smoothness of your soft brown hair, the color of a cow’s eye, the same color of my Anna’s hair many years ago before it became the gray and white streaked wrapped in a bun hair. Your hair, with its incredible shininess, turned up a bit at the ends to frame a face—a face beautiful enough to be framed.
Our heads were less than a foot apart at times but my Jew Face was invisible to you, or might as well have been. I smelled your girl smell, your Wasp smell, and noticed your hair splayed across your forehead like accent marks. You held on to my armrest as you peered down the tracks. The almost invisible hair on your very white arms caused me to turn and look at my Anna’s arms.
You stood and then bent, once again, leaning over me, poaching on my space as if it were communal. Your presence implied that by looking out the window you could make the train speed up. And each time you did that I stared at you.
You never noticed me, either sitting or staring, as if someone like myself with a Jew Nose much larger and so different from your own perfect little girl’s nose, was not worthy of being noticed. And, there was no possibility that your actions could be misinterpreted for anything other than what they were. They acknowledged my invisibility by suffocating me into my seat.
Those sweet and naturally pink lips, upturned at the ends, had never felt the need or desire to snarl or sneer the way my Jew Mouth had been forced to snarl and sneer back so often in my life. Your beautiful hazel eyes, with long lashes, didn’t notice me noticing you, no matter how long you stayed bent over or how close you came to my Jew Face.
Saying, “Excuse me,” was not tendered to the likes of me. It would be more like me to say it to you as my way of hoping to back you off, to give me my air, but the words remained crammed inside me.
I looked over at Anna again, at her spotted and dark arm and the discoloration right above her hand holding the book, and then I looked at your delicate wrist surrounded by several fine gold bracelets.
I knew you filtered out anything you didn’t perceive to be good and positive and of your world—which to you was one and the same. Other yous, that is all you wanted to see or associate with. That is what you were raised to see—that and nothing other, no matter how close or how many. The homeless and ethnics might just have well been accouterments to buildings, for they were so invisible to you. Yet my Jew Eyes looking through my rimless glasses, resting on my Jew Nose saw those people first.
Finally the train pulled to a stop and I watched as you disappeared into a crowd of your people, not noticing any of my people, of which there were many, swirling around you on the New Haven platform.
Anna patted my hand as if to say, “I was that young and pretty once.”
With my free hand I patted her back, telling her that I knew.
*** Paul Beckman was one of the winners in Queen’s Ferry Best of the Small Fictions (2016). He’s a former air traffic controller living in CT. Some publishing credits: Literary Orphans, Thrice Fiction, Connotation Press, Existere, F(r)iction, Matter Press, Molotov Cocktail, Pure Slush, Jellyfish Review, Blink-Ink, Litro, Soundzine, Opium, Playboy, The Connecticut Review, and Brilliant Flash Fiction. His flash story collection, “Peek” from Big Table Publishing weighed in at 65 stories and 117 pages and website is www.paulbeckmanstories.com ***