Guardian Angel

In the crowded jumble of black and khaki-colored jackets and coats, olive green knit caps and brown gloves, Nick’s eyes were drawn to a woman in a royal blue trench coat, an orange and yellow floral scarf wrapped around her head and neck.  She was neither young nor thin, but gazing at her, he was struck suddenly with the notion that he had never seen a more beautiful human face.  

She was at the far end of the subway car; there were dozens of commuters with wet plastered hair and soggy shoes between them.  He felt safe staring at her.  The train lurched on a curve, gravity pressed the crowd against his chest and back.  A familiar jolt of adrenaline pulsed between his solar plexus and throat.  But she looked serene, this lovely stranger.  Her eyes were blue, like her coat, like Nick’s mother.  Did he know her?  No, no.  But suddenly came the memory of lilac, the cream his mother used to smooth on the back of her hands after doing the dishes.  

Chocolate and oranges, sugar cookies and fennel tea that tasted like licorice.  He was in her kitchen at the small square table doing his algebra homework.  He was learning to drive in her sky blue Impala as big as a boat traversing the narrow midtown streets. Hadn’t the road narrowed in front of him recently too, didn’t he feel like he had few options left?  He took a deep breath, gripped the overhead rail.  In the press of bodies, the car was stuffy.  He wanted a drink, maybe just a beer.  He lifted his head, sought the angelic face in the crowd, and she was staring right at him, her blue gaze unwavering and intense.  

She had one of those tiny bow-shaped mouths, poised in a half smile.  She said nothing, she gave away nothing, but Nick felt comforted, even encouraged, and the small space where his ribs flared together was finally still.  The train slowed and every head turned toward the doors.  The woman in blue was swept along out into the popular station.  Nick watched her go, but she seemed to disappear outside, swallowed up in the crowd perhaps.  Or maybe she was a cipher who only existed here on this train at this hour.  Maybe he was the only one who had seen her.

The car was sparsely populated now and he sat down in one of the many vacant seats.  He had planned to get off at this stop too, but he decided to wait for a stop closer to home, where he’d pass no bars or liquid stores on the walk between the station and his apartment.

Photo by Paul Volkmer on Unsplash

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