The Mesmerizing Commute
I ran as quickly as I could. I wasn’t in a rush, but everyone behind me seemed to be and I hate being “that goddamn slow walker” everyone dreams of curbstomping. Within a few minutes of exiting my connecting train, I approached the Berri UQAM platform which led in the direction of Angrignon.
My pace, along with the pace of those rushing around me, quickly became one of curious hesitance. Our eyes were fixated on the same image before us.
I don’t know who she was or where she was from or where she was going – but I could not tear my eyes away from her. No one could. She just didn’t fit.
She must have been around 5’5, 5’7 in her simple black heel resonant of the 1995 heel shoe style. She wore a gray A-shaped skirt which fell right in the middle of her calve area. It had straight cut folds within it, giving a simple skirt a look of some serious grandeur. Her top was a jet black semi-long neck, half sleeve straight cut top – you know, the kind made for those size three models or rare women. It was tightly tucked into her skirt, which came up just above the navel area. The result was a crisp, neat look accentuated by the straight cuts and lines of the outfit. She was softly pale with blondish hair which had had no visible special treatment besides that of a comb. In her right arm hung a simple, small black purse.
And there she stood; simple yet irresistible to any set of eyes which passed her. She just wasn’t fitting in. She looked like a model – except without the visible ribs and contract. Her clothing was one aspect which set her apart from everyone else on the two platforms. No flashy colours, no jewelry, nothing sexual. What she had was something which was not only evident in her exterior appearance but in her general demeanor: pure class. That’s what she had. It took me two weeks to figure that out. But it wasn’t the class you and I know. She stood and exuded a sort of class we all were clearly unaccustomed to – I mean, six minutes in and I was still staring.
It was the collective reaction of the men which caught my attention in particular. Regardless of age, they maintained a curious fixation upon her. I vividly remember three extremely built men who approached the opposite platform, laughing and discussing something of no importance I’m sure. However as soon as they looked across, their laughter and conversation stopped immediately. They were hushed. They were enamored. All they could do was stare. It was clear they were attracted to her. It was clear that many of the men on those platforms found themselves strangely attracted to – not aroused by - her. She didn’t allow for arousal. But she didn’t demand the attraction either. She just stood there, unflinching. Not an eyelash battered, nor a smirk shared.
In my state of amusement and awkwardness when she saw me looking at her, I grabbed 100 Years of Solitude (not autobiographical ..yet.) out of my purse and started reading the publishing dates.
With my gawking discovered, I grabbed 100 Years of Solitude (not autobiographical…yet) from my purse and read the publishing dates. Very interesting stuff when in an awkward enough position. After about 30 seconds my nosy eyes wandered and saw an unattractive male walk up beside her. He was short, had a bit of a belly, and was balding save for a few stringy strands. He was engulfed in his book and did not even glance to see her beside him.
Then, to the shock of every subatomic particle in Berri-UQAM, she asked him which book he was reading. A mumbled response resulted in a smile and a return to silence from her. I smiled. She did not acknowledge the existence of any of the men who gawked, glimpsed, gazed, and glanced at her. But the one man whose fixation lay elsewhere, she verbally acknowledged.
The train arrived and the rush returned. On the same car as her, I felt like a prepubescent boy, once again seeking haven in the publishing dates. Flashing my eyes in her direction, I saw her sitting in complete peace. A second flash of the eyes was encountered by her soft blue stare. She smiled, and I returned the favour. I got off at Peel, feeling oddly elated. I think she was an angel.
Or someone on so much E that it perforated the senses of everyone around her.
Longer version of a piece published in the McGill Daily in October 2008. Also later a TEDx talk.