I fell in love on the train. It was the Red Line in Chicago and it was bitterly cold. A trio of teenagers boarded a few stops after mine, loud and laughing in the way of teenagers. I first noticed was a dark-haired boy in a red T-shirt, only a T-shirt on a dark December evening. The two boys and a girl stood in front of me, shifting and fidgeting with youthful energy and talking just a bit too loud.
The dark-haired boy in the red shirt put his arm around the sandy-haired boy in a loverly way and caressed his back, hugging his waist, jokingly I think, but the sandy boy did not throw him off. It was not the caresser that riveted me, but the one caressed.
He was not a boy, but not yet a man. His face was beautiful, with flawless pale skin and the first brush of a five o’clock shadow. His eyes captured me, though they turned not towards me. They were brown, just brown, but so expressive, so rich and captivating. He turned his gaze this way and that between his two companions. His body was trim and athletic, even beneath his black winter coat. He wore a black scarf and dark blue jeans.
After a time a pair of seats opened up and he and the girl sat. Her black coat matched the sandy-haired boy, a boy’s coat, dedicated by the chivalry of the red-shirted boy who now stood close before the two. The object of my misguided affection sprawled languidly, one foot braced on a vertical support, sandy head leaning back against the seat.
I did not know his age, nor his name, nor any single fact about him, but I loved him. From his sandy-brown hair to his black tennis shoes, I loved him. This was the boy for whom less controlled women went to prison for and this was the emotion they got in trade. This was the boy that the Greeks wrote poems about and the Romans made statues of. I watched from beneath my lashes. He was so beautiful and seemed so totally unconcerned.
Past station after station a hundred people came and went while I watched him and marveled that any human being, live and in the flesh, could be so beautiful. He could have been a monster inside and I am not sure I would have cared. I could picture him, standing as the Roman statues stand, but of warm, soft, living flesh. He was young enough to be forbidden but old enough to make his own decisions, be they ever so unwise and damaging. It is just that kind of young man, or woman, prone to damage and be damaged, fragile like china and yet somehow powerful.
Would I ever? I wondered to myself and smiled. No never. I shook my head slightly. Oh, but I could love him for those few minutes there on the train. Love without entanglements, without attachment, without fear or loss or pain or heartbreak. Because I would never, even if he might.
My station came. I left the train without a backward glance. He traveled on into the night never knowing that for a short period of time, and forever after, a woman loved him.