|Subway Riders, Bernard Safran|
"This train is going to Brooklyn."
Damn. I've been found out! Abort! Abort!
I calmly began folding my map and looked to my side as if I had not heard what he had said. Sitting next to me was an elderly Asian man. He had a look of pride in his eyes and smiled gently. It was apparent that he was trying to help me, not judge me. Of course, this kind old man was not going to stop me from pretending to know what I was doing.
"Oh, I know." I smiled.
He began to laugh. It was the sort of laugh that was incredibly infectious and hearty. He shook his head and spoke with a slight accent that reminded me of my father.
"I'm so sorry! I thought maybe you were a tourist!"
I laughed with him and assured him that I was no tourist. Sensing an end to our interaction, I pulled out my book and began reading the wise words of Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma.
"That's some heavy summer reading."
"I suppose it is... I'm just really interested in food..." Before I could continue he immediately perked up.
"Oh really? How interesting! Are you a vegetarian?"
I was a bit taken a back and even suspicious by his enthusiasm. I glanced around the car to see if anyone else was sitting on the edge of their seats to hear more about my interests. A hipster was scribbling in his moleskine notebook while a homeless man continued snoring in the next seat over.
"You know," he continued, "I often find myself in the omnivore's dilemma myself."
I nodded and just when I was about to form words, he continued once again.
"I often watch the news and special reports on the industrial food production facing our nation today. It is shocking how corporations treat people and only care about making a profit."
It was difficult for me to mask my expression of surprise. He was so articulate and passionate, especially for a conversation with a stranger on the subway. Suddenly, a feeling of compassion and joy overcame me. He continued rambling happily on the subject of food, unaware that I was finding it difficult to pay attention... his charisma was so distracting.
"Where are you from?"
"North Carolina... I went to University of Nor..."
"Oh really?! That is fantastic!"
I smiled even bigger this time wishing I could possess the same amount of enthusiasm as him. The F train pulled into the station and I regretfully got up and told him this was my stop. He nodded.
"So I suppose you're a southern girl then?"
"I guess so!" I laughed as the doors opened.
He smiled and waved. "Have a lovely day!"
As the doors closed and the trained pulled away, I found myself feeling as if I had just experienced the purest form of human kindness and connection. This man exuded happiness and had unknowingly passed it onto me-- a southern girl in the big city.