WORDS: Tess Holland '18
IMAGE: Benjamin Hicks '18
Train updates flash on two large screens in the New Haven Station as I eat a blueberry muffin from one (of the two) Dunkin Donuts in the complex. I look for the track number for the 1:40 train to New Rochelle, which appears towards the bottom of the screen because naturally, I am almost an hour early. Seated on one of the long wooden benches, I scan the station and watch the other waiting people. A girl wearing a lavender tank top and frayed jean shorts sits down on the same bench leaving a sizable gap between us.
She looks a few years older than I am. Her hair is piled in a messy bun on her head, still wet from this morning’s shower. A pair of sunglasses perches atop her hair like it’s a tiara holding her bun in place. I envision her in a cluttered room this morning shoving clothes into her black backpack. She nearly forgets to pack her toothbrush and leaves the tousled sheets of her unmade bed to come home to in a few days.
She eats a Subway sandwich from a wrinkled paper bag. Pesto oozes from the pita bread, and as she reaches the sandwich to her mouth a dollop of pesto lands on her shirt. She looks down, grabs her backpack and rushes towards the nearest restroom. Five minutes pass. She comes back sporting an oval shaped water-print tinted a light green on her tank.
She’s visiting her boyfriend who goes to Northeastern; they’re both seniors. They grew up in a New England suburb and have dated since sophomore year in high school. I imagine them posing for a prom photo in a simple backyard with well-manicured grass; she’s in a short blue dress trimmed with silver, and he wears a matching blue tie. A long one.
The girl gets up and swings her backpack on. As she walks to the Amtrak bus section, she unties the bun, her long hair, wet and wavy, falls onto her backpack.
Her boyfriend waits for her at Boston South Station, a photo from their prom preserved in the wallet that rests in the front pocket of his pants.
The train trudges on; abandoned brick buildings with vines hugging their surfaces and faded white walls inked with graffiti tags escape behind me.
To my left, a man props up an iPad on the small table attached to the seat in front of him. He looks like a recent college graduate. From behind his square eyeglasses he watches the screen intently. He scrolls through YouTube videos, clicking on bands performing live on stage. Blue and green lights rotate across the screen, the musicians' faces glow under them. He clicks on a new video. I recognize the band, a country group notorious for getting busted for gun possession. The man’s foot taps against the carpeted train floor in tune with the music. His fingers pad the iPad surface in the same rhythm.
He wears a maroon collared shirt and ironed khakis. Black socks peak out of his chunky dress shoes. Red bumps trail from beneath the collar of his shirt and up his neck; I picture him applying shaving cream in a small bathroom and him nicking the skin with his razor.
The man’s eyes reluctantly veer from the screen to check the train's location on Google Maps—perhaps he is off to an interview or internship in New York.
On the weekends he stays up late in his shabby New Haven apartment watching Youtube videos of his favorite bands and imitating musicians with his own electric guitar. He commutes on weekdays to the city, every morning eating a bowl of Cornflakes by himself and ironing his pants and shirt on an ironing board in his kitchen.
A European looking man in his twenties sits across from me as I wait outside the New Rochelle train station on a metal bench. Immediately I think he is out of place here. A pungent cologne lingers around him and drifts my way. He wears a crisp light blue button-down, tight khakis, and suede turquoise loafers. His hair is slicked back, and I imagine if I touched it it would feel hardened with product. He places a Red Bull on the ground and pulls out a pack of Marlboro’s from his pocket. He extracts a cigarette and lights it, then bends over so his elbows rest on his knees and reaches the white shape to his pursed lips. He inhales deeply then lets his arm dangle on his knee, the cigarette settled between two fingers. In the air, the smell of cigarette smoke fuses with his cologne. The tracks rattle behind me as a train passes.
I can’t figure out his story.
He makes a short phone call, talking in Italian. He takes sips of his Red Bull between cigarette drags and speaking. He hangs up the phone, and an older man in an oversized yellow t-shirt approaches him to ask for a light. The Italian obliges.
As he hands his lighter to the other man, I watch him watching me.
I wonder what he thinks.