When I take the R-Train and can't find a free seat, I walk to the back of the car and lean against the dividing door. I consider it the next best thing to sitting. It's a little awkward to stand in the small space between the double seats, but I don't mind.
One day a couple was sitting in the two seats to my left. They seemed young, around 30 years old, and the air of comfort and familiarity between them strongly suggested that they were married. The husband had short black hair and wore the polo-shirt-and-cargo-pants get-up of a blue collar profession. His head was tilted back against the wall of the car and his eyes were closed. He had a sturdy build with a bit of fat around the waist. He seemed tired from a bad night's rest and trying to relax before facing the stress at work. His face was round, chubby and childlike. His breath streamed softly through his slightly parted lips and his tongue moved in his mouth like the tongue of a baby whose mother had just stuck a tiny piece of avocado in its mouth and was now curiously indulging in the unfamiliar creamy sensation. He was simply adorable.
The wife was sitting to his left and eating a candy bar. She was pretty with curly dark-blonde hair to her nape. She wore glasses with skinny frames befitting her skinny physique.
After she stuck the last piece of candy bar into her mouth, she crumpled up the wrapper and dropped it into her bag. With her mouth full she took a deep breath through her nose and cuddled up to her husband. While still chewing she put her hands on his left leg, rested her head on his shoulder, and closed her eyes. She seemed serene, full in every sense. Peacefully like this they traveled on up to 36th Street. There the woman had to get off. She gathered her things, exchanged a couple of words with the husband, they kissed, and she got out.
The seat next to him was free now. He was still in the same position: head tilted back against the wall, eyes closed, breathing calmly. I stared at the seat and after a while I decided to sit down in it. Due to his impressive body volume my side from my shoulder to my knee was touching him. I could feel his warmth; steady, permeating, heating me up. I felt good. As the train decelerated his breath wafted over to me. It smelled bad. Nothing sick. Just the smell of tired, sleepy morning mouth. I didn't mind.
His wife probably doesn't mind either. She must sometimes inhale his breath when they kiss, savoring it softly, tasting his presence. When they make love in a sultry, buzzing Brooklyn summer night and he is panting above her, working hard to deliver his rhythmic thrusts, she must be taking deep breaths desperate to fill herself with his smell and his warmth.
I had gotten hot, took a deep breath, and swallowed. I tried to imagine what the wife must have felt like when she had sat here just before. I closed my eyes and tilted my head over a little to him without touching him. I imagined him coming home at night from work--home to me. He would be exhausted. I would make him his dinner. We would have a beautiful relationship. A relationship with him being the quiet strong one and me caring for him and filling myself with his strength. He would be happy with me because I would understand his need for quiet. It's so obvious to me.
His wife probably likes to show him off to her friends when he clearly doesn't like that. She's probably one of those cool and upbeat girls who wants a lot of friends and he has to suffer through her trying to uphold the image she envisions for themselves of a young, cool, and quirky couple.
I saw them again shortly after our first encounter. It was the very same situation. I was leaning on the dividing door, they were sitting to my left. He was dozing and the wife was eating a candy bar. Clearly she had no class. Since when are candy bars breakfast? She had made herself up ridiculously. Her hair was too puffy and she was eating like a slob constantly licking her lips. When she had finished her candy bar she leaned on him again and let out a cheesy little sigh. She looked at him and smiled. At that point I got physically sick. Everything about her behavior was just wrong. At the next stop I changed cars so I wouldn't throw up on her. I just couldn't stand it anymore. In the other car it was better: a bunch of solitary people like me. Quiet and inconspicuous.