Tag Archives: people

Strangers on a Train

As I sat on the train I noticed the people in the seat directly in front of me. She had a big white knitted hat on as protection from the bitter cold of the early Philadelphia morning. His hat was striped and didn’t look nearly as warm. Her head rested on his shoulder and I could see from my vantage point that she was dead asleep. I wondered how long they had been on the train that her slumber could be so deep. Maybe she was just a good sleeper.

I could hear the pages turning in something he read; it sounded more like a book than a newspaper. They have a much louder sound and longer page-turning time. He seemed so relaxed and content on his morning commute. I assumed they knew each other; people need a certain comfort level to rest their head on another’s shoulder. Or maybe that’s just me. Who knows.

My single-ness was a bit painful after seeing two people so comfortable with each other, so relaxed and close. It ate away at me as I looked down at my boots, toes awkwardly pointed inward just the slightest bit, my tights keeping my legs warm and the gray sweater dress that I painstakingly chose this morning in the hope of seeing that guy I have a secret crush on; I can’t help it, I have a thing for sweater vests, what can I say.

I wonder about these two people in front of me. They seem like nice, kind people, a couple I would love to hang out with. They’re about my age, maybe twenty-four or twenty-five at the oldest. While I am dressed for office work, they look like they could be on vacation or possibly going to work in some new trendy company that not only allows jeans, but expects them. I would love to work in a place like that.

The speaker crackles and someone announces Suburban Station, next stop, Suburban Station and he nudges her gently with his shoulder; she looks up. Lines from his coat mark her face and she smiles as her hand wipes the sleep from her eyes. The train hisses and slows, he smiles at her. She gets up, fixes her soft yellow coat, and kisses him on the cheek.

“See you tonight,” he says with a smile. She smiles back and nods, then turns and exits the train.

Artwork by the always lovely and talented Nadia Lavard.

Kissing Clauses

The holiday season had clearly taken hold of Philadelphia, and Martha was forced to swerved between more people than she had ever seen on South Street before. She passed Repo Records and finally swerved left to get off of the main street and head down to Bainbridge for a while. The relief allowed her to slow her pace and take in the sights of a road less traveled during her usual holiday shopping routine.

She passed a junk store she’d never seen before and out of the corner of her eye spotted something that made her stop dead on the sidewalk, leading a homeless man to bump into her. He excused himself and continued around her as she turned to look in the giant window filled with vintage holiday objects. She scanned the display, past a plastic wreath that had seen better days, ignoring a small set of Rudolph salt and pepper shakers to a shelf that was eye level. There they stood, and she instantly flashed back to childhood at her grandparents’ home in the suburbs. Santa Claus, hands behind his back, leaning in for a kiss. Mrs. Claus, hands also withdrawn, leaning in for the same kiss, standing on a little pedestal that Martha knew would make Santa’s wife spin and play a cute little holiday song similar to those that came from children’s jewelry boxes. Martha turned and entered the store, opening the door a little too boisterously, causing the bell attached to the top to ring with more violence than it should.

She could practically hear her grandmother tell her to be careful as she reached for one of the statues. The man at the counter, old and frail beyond his years, looked up at her over his wire-rim reading glasses. He smiled and approached her, fixing his aged suspenders as he walked.

“Interested in the kissing Santa and Mrs. Claus, young lady?” She nodded and put a hand out to take the statue of Mrs. Claus.

“Careful now,” the elderly man warned her. “Those are hand painted and from the 1970s. Do you know the set?”

She thought back to Christmases past and could practically smell the spaghetti sauce cooking in her grandmother’s kitchen. She could see the chestnuts roasting in the fireplace, her grandfather worriedly checking them every few minutes. Even the old marble table where the two statues sat year after year came into view for Martha.

And then she remembered what happened to the set. Her little sister was playing with them, winding up Mrs. Claus, when the tragic event took place. A stumble, a fumble and Mrs. Claus’ severed head rolled up to Martha’s left foot. A frantic aunt sneaking the statue away and quickly playing doctor with quick dry rubber cement, and it was almost like it never happened. But Martha could tell; she could spot the spider web crack in the statue’s neck in an instant, maybe just because she knew it was there.

“Young lady, are you okay?” the man asked her, waking her up from the memory. She shook her head.

“I’m fine. I would love to purchase this.” As she turned the statue, examining Mrs. Claus’ white apron, her green dress and the puckered lips, she noticed a tiny crack in the neck.

Thanksgiving Abroad

Rebecca stared at the empty post card, unsure of how to apologize for missing her parents’ fiftieth anniversary party. Her cousin would surely be there, and she just couldn’t deal with seeing him again after their encounter. It would be too painful. He would get that look of excitement on his face, she would see his smile, and they would end up down the same path that she’d already put an end to more than once.

She bought a Thanksgiving post card to combine both excuses in one shot; he would be going to that as well. She thought back to the first day when they were hiking to the top of the small Mount Glade to watch the famous sunset. Time was running out because she wasn’t in as good of shape as she’d thought and they needed to rush to make it. He beat her to the top and as she climbed the final rocks saw him with myriad colors in the background, holding out his hand to her, and she accepted it. Her hand stayed in his without either of them noticing until it was too late.

Thanksgiving was a enormous loss for her. Some of her best childhood memories were those of her father giving thanks before they all dug in. He always named each of his children on that list, and the rare attention from the patriarch always made her heart skip a beat. Of course, he was always thankful for the roof over their head, meals, and baseball games, but she sat anticipating hearing her name come from his lips. And now she would miss it.

As she started to scribble the kindest words she could muster for her parents, they flowed rather smoothly. She finished and looked at it, rereading every word and wondering why her hands were shaking. It was horrible to avoid her family because of a few mistakes, but she had no choice; seeing him again would start it all back up and it was all wrong. She read the letter once more and realized that it sounded more friendly than loving, but she had to send it as is. Thanksgiving was in two days and it she didn’t have time to go out and buy another card.

Christmas Balls

“Look at the size of those balls.” She stopped and looked at me like I was crazy as I pointed down toward the bottom floor of the mall where they were unpacking the Christmas ornaments. “What? Christmas balls?”

She gave me a dubious look because she knew why I chose that particular diction to express my thoughts.

“Wow, those are huge,” she remarked.

I debated commenting, but refrained, like a good boyfriend. “Can you imagine unpacking stuff like that every year? I don’t even like pulling out the five boxes of decorations I have, and they’re normal sized. That’s insane.”

We both rested our arms on the railing so that we could take in the largeness of the event taking place down there. From afar they looked normal, but we knew the sheer size of the ornaments alone was intense. The tree in King of Prussia Mall puts the one in Rockefeller Center to shame. The ornaments are easily twice the size of my head.

“I’ve never seen the mall decorations until they’re actually finished decorating…this is intense,” she said to me. “They’re huge.”

“I know, right?” I said with an evil grin on my face. She shoved me and continued on her way, as I lingered behind for another moment to snap a shot.

Shooting Star Beach

“But…” she looked at him, confused.

“I said space alien.”

“Okay…so you think the shooting stars are UFOs?”

“Yup!” he said with a triumphant smile.

“But the place is called Shooting Star Beach.”

He nodded. “Look, there goes another one!”

“Shooting star?”

“Space alien.”

“So let me get this straight.  You think the lights that look like shooting stars are – “

“Spaceships flying. Isn’t it obvious?”

“It’s not obvious. It’s dubious at best.”

He slouched a little as her mother walked up.

“He’s only eight,” she whispered into her daughter’s ear.

Cobblestone Streets

The couple walked hand-in-hand through Philadelphia and stopped as Front Street brought them to cobblestone. They looked around and sat on a bench.

“My feet hurt. This is just the break I need.”

A loud sound started coming from around the corner, the sound of a car driving quite quickly on a flat tire. It reverberated off the giant stone statues that made up the monument across the street.

“Sounds like a flat,” he told her knowingly.

“You don’t come to the city enough. It’s just the cobblestone.” He looked at the street and noticed for the first time that it was made of bricks rather than asphalt.

“Oh that’s what you’re always complaining about walking on when you leave work!”

She nodded and snuggled up to him as a cold wind came across Columbus Boulevard from the river.

“But they’re all uneven and messed up. They must be terrible to walk on. I can understand why you’re always breaking shoes.”

“And skinning my knees when I trip.”

“Right.”

The sound of horse hooves came from around the same corner. He watched as the light turned green and a small stream of cars vibrated across the old red bricks. Once the cars were gone the clopping of the horses took control of the environment once again.

The horse and cart rolled by and made less noise against the bumpy road than the cars made only a moment ago.

He watched a guy on his bicycle coming through the park. The biker ignored the red traffic light and flew into the path of an oncoming car that clearly had the right of way. He stopped the bike and started yelling profanities.

“You can tell the cobblestone streets were made for carriages and not cars. I wonder what they’re like for bikes,” he said to her.

“Smart bikers stay away from cobblestone. But sometimes you just can’t avoid it.”

The biker got back onto his bicycle and started on his way only to hit a huge cobblestone brick that was a few inches higher than the rest. The bike tire stopped, throwing the angry biker over the handlebars. He skidded to a halt and sat up, a bit bewildered.

“Try not to laugh,” she said to her boyfriend as he stifled a giggle.

Commercialization of the Word Like

She put her book on her lap as if a sudden idea occurred to her.

“When did the word like become so…”

“Commercial?” he replied from his work desk on the other side of the room. She smiled.

“You always can finish my – “

“Dinner?” He interrupted with a smile.

“Oh so funny,” she said as she dangled her legs over the side of the dark red couch of their study. “You’re working pretty hard over there.”

“Marketing doesn’t market itself, as my boss always says.”

“Trying to get the new book more likes?”

“Yup,” he said with a frown. “It’s tough. We’re up to 1, 256. My goal is 3000 by the end of the week.”

“Do you get what I’m saying, though? It’s almost as if the word like has lost all meaning. The power of liking something has been diminished, in a meaningful way. I heard a ten-year-old tell his friend that she should like his blog, and she said only if he liked her friend’s pic for some contest. He agreed. But what does he care about the contest? He liked it, I’m sure, as soon as he got home, so that she would fulfill her side of the verbal contract and like his blog. The word is losing its umph, its pizzazz, its gumption.”

He turned to face her, which was simple since he was in a swivel chair. “From a human standpoint, I totally see what you mean and can get behind you a hundred percent. But as a heartless bastard in the world of marketing, what you’re saying right now is scaring the shit out of me.”

“Maybe I’ll start a campaign. A campaign to take back the word like! I’ll tell the world to stop liking things and to just like things! Real life like! I’ll never forget the day you first told me you liked me, I giggled and blushed. Remember?”

He nodded even though his back was to her.

“Maybe you should start a Facebook page.”

“Very funny. But if we weren’t together, and you told me that you liked me now, it just wouldn’t mean the same thing. I like you. Well, that’s nice and all, but you also liked Girls in Wet T-Shirts and California Raisins today, so I’m not really sure where I fit in on your list of priorities.”

“Okay, first off, I liked Girls in Wet T-Shirts as a joke. And I happened to be eating raisins yesterday and thought about how much I liked them, so I liked them.”

“Oh trust me, I laughed at the joke, no worries there. I knew it was your sense of humor aimed right at me. I’m just saying.”

He clicked the mouse a few times. “Hmm…looks like someone likes Those Pantyhose That Come in an Egg Container today. Can I start calling you hypocrite now or should I wait?”

She laughed as he turned to face her again and used his feet to wheel right up to the couch. As she looked at him he took her hands in his and pulled her upright and they faced each other. The smile left his face and he looked at her with love and longing.

With all of the seriousness he could muster, he whispered, “I like you.”

She smiled and blushed.

The Feminine Mystique

Flash fiction typed on a vintage photograph using an antique typewriter.

Lover’s Cliff

Typography on vintage photographs using an antique typewriter.

A Night for Making Out