Mornings usually constitute of a commute, somewhere – work or school or something else – and often involves public transit. This means: train delays, over-crowded and cramped spaces with people who have different standards of hygiene than you, dampness or stickiness depending on the weather. My regular morning commute was no different; rushed, squished, loud, tiring. This morning was more of the same, but I was lucky– I found a seat. I squeezed myself in between a well-dressed woman who was already answering emails on her Blackberry and a very tired student carrying too many textbooks. Having forty minutes to kill, I thought about whether I should nap or read. Instead, I found myself people-watching, specifically the little girl across from me. She couldn’t sit still for longer than a few moments. Every time the train stopped, she watched the automatic doors as though it was a magic trick. Her eyes were optimistic and inquisitive, interested in every move and sound the train made. At stop announcements, her head perked up, and when the door chimed shut people turned to look for where the laughter was coming from. She stood up on her seat, hands pressed against the windows, while her grandfather desperately tried to keep her from falling off. She watched the passing by streets, trees, houses, and skies as the train came above ground and then back into the tunnel. She was completely unaware of the discomfort of the woman sitting next to her. It’s like watching TV, she announced to nobody in particular.
This was her first time experiencing something I, as an adult, did every day – for whom, the magic had faded. At some point life was a series of firsts, when we approached everything with a sense of new excitement. Then life changes. We go to school, or maybe we don’t. We get jobs we hate, or maybe ones we love; sometimes we don’t have jobs and we love that and we also hate that. We do things like meeting friends for coffee, or think about a savings account; we talk about travel, and the reasons we don’t travel as much. We find the people we love, sometimes we realize maybe we didn’t really love them, or maybe they never loved us. And somewhere along the way, that wonder escaped us.
Her grandfather began to gather her things, and zipped up her jacket, found her mittens in the pockets and asked her to put them on. She ran up to the door pushing past the people standing around her, most of whom were familiar with her by now. Placing herself right in front of the door, she jumped a little as the train pulled into the station. It reminded me of the first time I learnt the feeling of “losing gravity” if you jump when an elevator stops; I was probably her age. As she prepared to literally hop off the train, she turned and our eyes met briefly and she waved goodbye to nobody in particular.
Some people smiled, some shuffled, and everyone went back to their regular commute.