On any given day you can find my sorry self slumped over and snoozing somewhere on the Red Line either coming or going to or from work at one of my 2 jobs. It is a vast understatement to say I am tired most of the time and a total truth to say, I really do not pay all that much attention to anything going on around me because of this simple fact. I'm not totally out of it when I snooze on the train, I have some small sense of self preservation and I tend to perk up when it's almost my stop or something/someone invades my personal space.
Like the couple that got on the Red Line at Broadway tonight and jumped up an down on my personal tranquility and then for good measure kicked it across the platform. They seemed at first quick glance to be a run of the mill couple high as kites on their way to who knows what kind of torrid downfall of an evening and I really didn't want to know any more, I just didn't want them to sit anywhere near me and my quiet ride home.
That's just not my kind of luck tho and of course, the woman plops her bone thin frame into the seat beside me and bids her parner to sit in a vacant seat across the way. Incidentally, a seat right next to a guy who is so seriously down for the count, he is not snoozing but full on sleeping, half laying across 2 seats. To all outward appearences this man showed no signs of waking anytime before spring. Next to slumped over guy, the gentleman of this charming duo sat.
As the train rumbled on, the couple talked very animatedly with the man kind of egging the woman on as she told a highly implausible tale of woe that befell her before she ran into him tonight. She was mugged and beaten and left for dead in an alley by some people of mumbled ethnicity and apparently a very nice little old lady she was friends with was murdered somewhere along the way. I lost track of the story as I tried to figure out how to get away from these people without drawing attention to myself. I imagined some kind of "What do you think? You're better than us?!?" scream following me down the car and was not in the mood for it at all, so I stayed put.
I thought about getting off at the next stop, and waiting for the next train but on the Red Line you have to wait for the time it takes 2 trains to come into the station because 2 lines run on the same track and they wind up at 2 very different places at the end of the line. I was tired and wanted to go home. I worked all day, it was so unfair that I should have to get off and wait for the next Braintree train just to escape these drugged out nut jobs so I tried to make the best of it and squished myself to the wall beside me. I snuggled my backpack close on my lap and tried to doze off and block them out.
After a stop or so, even with my eyes closed I realized, this woman next to me is now falling over, onto me.
I open my eyes and give her a little nudge with a friendly as I can muster comment "Hey, I think you're falling asleep..." She snaps up and looks at her "friend" who is now standing in front of her, as she tries to focus in on where she is and what is happening, he's on the phone and I look at him and realize, there is a major age discrepency between these two.
She's somewhere between 45 and 65 and he's about 23-25. Not totally unusual for folks on drugs I think, they tend to buddy up with other users no matter what thier ages, but this largish gap strikes me as a little odd.
The train rumbles on and she starts to nod off again but she's doing it upright so I'm not paying too much attention to her, he's got my attention now. He's talking on the phone as she slips away, calling a friend and asking if it's ok if he comes over to watch the end of the game with the rest of the fellas tonight. He's happy and tells his friend he'll call him when he gets to Ashmont but first he has to make sure his Mom gets home ok.
Then I get it, and it hits me. Hard.
The kid is completely clean, he's not on drugs and he's not 25 but about maybe about 20 and he's egging the woman on in her nutty paranoid ramble so he can keep her awake, he knows as bone thin as she is, he's not going to be able to get her home unless he keeps her awake. He's done this many times before.
I figured out that it really wouldn't matter if I got up and moved seats, neither of them were going to hassle me for clearly wanting to be away from them, they were paying attention to no one else and would probably not even notice me at all.
Probably, except the woman was leaning on me again and if I moved she would hit the floor like the ton of bricks that hit me when I realized what was actually going on.
I looked up at the young man and asked if he would like to sit in my seat. He was incredibly fresh faced with bright eyes and a smile that is almost genuine except I know this act, I've seen this play before. It's just a different touring cast this time.
That makes his sincere seeming smile a little creepy but I'm over my own feelings now. No, he doesn't want to inconvienince me, he has clearly been raised a gentleman and would never do something so horridly ill mannered as request the seat where a lady was already sitting.
It's his "Everything is just fine" act and he brightly tells me that his mother has had a long day. She's nodding over again and he nudges her.
"Hey Mom, we gotta get off at the next stop, we got on the wrong train." She wakes and stares at him once again as if she's at home in bed, been asleep for hours and was just woken up by some strange happenstance beyond her comprehension.
"Where is your Father?!?"
He's very patient with her, "He's home Ma, I'm gonna take you home."
To me, he's very polite,
"Um, if you would be more comfortable over there..."
he gestures across the car to the now empty seat next to the slumped over guy.
"Um yeah, thanks..." I smile gratefully and slip across the way. As he sits next to his Mother and I sit across the way he leans forward again to say, his mother has had a long day and he starts to say more but I stop him.
He looks at me, I look at him and I say it again, "It's ok." He doesn't have to explain anything, I'm not judging him or his Mother, I know what the situation is and "It's ok."
I don't know why I also told him, "You have a good night now, ok?" It seems in hindsight a very odd thing to say except I think he understood, I hope he understood, I was really telling him,
"You're a good son and I hope the rest of your life doesn't totally suck."
I sincerely hope this one night doesn't toally suck for him, I hope he gets to watch the game with his friends. I hope he meets a nice girl at the gathering and gets to forget about his burdens for a while.
It's all hope until they get off at the next station, the car pulls away and I watch the way he moves helping his mother to the stairs.
He's not 23-25, he's maybe 17 and he's being such a good son.
By the time I pull into my stop, I'm no longer hoping for him, I'm praying.
Slumped over guy stays on the train at Braintree, he hasn't moved the whole trip. He's not going anywhere having clearly already hit the end of the line.
I wonder if he isn't the luckiest dude on the whole train...