A couple of days ago on the train, I witnessed two broken hearts. I can only relay my interpretation of their story, and no matter what the actual truth is, seeing them together, it is hard not to feel a bit of their pain. We rode together for nearly a half hour, from 167th St, all the way to W 4th St, where I exited. At first they stood near the front of the car, her clutching the pole with both hands to steady herself, swaying back and forth as the train absorbed abuse at every turn; him with his hands in the pockets of his Colombia Jacket, leaning against the doors that link the train cars together. They rode that way for about 15 minutes. If you didn’t see them get on the train at the same time, you would never have known that they were together. They did not talk to each other. He looked at her, but she faced away from him, staring off into nothingness. Her eyes were red and puffy, as if she had finished crying just the moment before they entered the train. His eyes were hopeless and tragic, filled with pain and regret. They stood like this for what seemed like ages, both stoic and pensive, without an ounce of happiness between them.
Then, the man began fidgeting in his pockets. He took out his phone and a tangled mess of headphones. I figured he must be getting sick of the screeching of the train and the muttering of countless strangers around him. Maybe he just wanted to drown out the thoughts running through his head. Instead, he untangled the headphones, plugged one of them in his ear and approached his girlfriend. He swept the hair from over her ear, as though he had done it a thousand times before, and put the other bud into her ear. Then he pushed play and they began listening to a song together. He held her as best as a person can hold another person, while standing on a moving train, one arm around her back, still holding the phone, the other steading himself on the pole, his hand over hers. His eyes were closed as he put his face close to her and drank in the smell of her hair. I swear I could see the tears begin to well in the corners of her already bloodshot eyes, as they both listened. It seemed to me as though he was trying to fix whatever was wrong with that song. He was apologizing with a song that was meaningful to the both of them. Maybe it was their song. I couldn’t tell if she accepted the apology or not.
A few stops later, a couple of seats freed up and the pair sat down. She was on his right and they continued to share headphones. After each song he would choose a new one and they listened together in silence. He only broke his eyes away from her in order to find a new song to play. I could tell that there was a battle raging inside of her head. In her face I saw sadness, coupled with fear, anger, loneliness, and despair. She was fighting the urge to weep. She loved him, but he had hurt her. She wanted to hate him, but he meant too much to her. He wore his desperation, plain as day. He was at her mercy. His eyes begged her to look at him (which she didn’t), to return the affection he was trying to show her. He held her hand in his, but she did not caress his or grasp it, as he did hers. It was merely there because she did not have the heart to take it away from him. Like an unreciprocated kiss. It was painful to watch.
I left the train feeling unresolved and unsatisfied. I felt invested in their relationship. I don’t know how their story ends. What I saw on the train was just a snippet, without a beginning and lacking an ending. I could tell that they shared a love and no doubt a romantic story of how they found that love, but something happened along the way and they were in the midst of trying to find their way back. Sometimes it’s the easiest thing in the world to get lost and the most difficult task imaginable to find your way to the path again. Sometimes there is no path to return to. You can spend eternity trying to find something that just doesn’t exist anymore. Who knows how their story will end, but part of me hopes that I see them on the the train again, together, madly in love, and reconciled. Call me a romantic.