The other evening I took the train home from downtown after a pleasant evening spent with my brother and some of his family. I love the train, and will use any excuse to ride. It’s hard to say exactly why, other than the fact that my dad worked for the Illinois Central Railroad when I was very young, and riding any train reminds me a bit of those times.
Another reason I love MetroLink is one I don’t generally share: I’ve met angels riding the train. No, seriously. Angels.
Angels come in many shapes and sizes, of course, and the ones I’m talking about have a human form. Like the other night: A nondescript fellow of indeterminate age got on downtown someplace, carrying a bunch of plastic bags filled with who-knows-what; I didn’t pay much attention to him at first. He declined a seat, and instead stood near the door, facing front, about ten feet ahead of me.
It soon became apparent that this guy was far from sober. He had trouble standing up when the train jerked from side to side, and it took him a while to find a place to hang on. Then, holding onto the rail with one hand, he began to dance with his reflection in the Plexiglas panel in front of him. Only then did I notice his earbuds and the small recorder he was carrying.
Three sheets to the wind he was, no doubt. But oh my, that guy can dance! His moves were fluid, energetic, gracefully masculine, and very creative. You had to smile, watching him—he was lost in his music, just following it with his body, eyes half closed, never making a sound. Once in a while he’d look at his reflection for a few seconds and smile at it, dancing with it.
A few stops later, a striking young woman walked forward as the train approached her stop. She stood near the door opposite him, ignoring his gyrations.
The fellow saw her, though, and danced across the aisle toward her. His movements grew more intense, more erotic, though never really suggestive, and he said not a word. She glanced at him, looked away, and grinned to herself and the rest of us as she got off the train when the doors opened. The dancer went back to “his” side of the aisle and his reflection.
By now, many of us were smiling, some were laughing openly. The dancer never noticed any of us. Finally, nearing his own stop, he picked up his plastic bags, put a cigarette between his lips, and located his lighter in the depths of his pocket. When the doors opened, he stepped off into the night.
As he left, I thought, “That guy was an angel!” Why? Because despite the vast differences in our age, income level, skin color, and practically everything else that you could name, I recognized a kindred spirit.
This man, this angel, is a dancer just like I am. The physical joy of melody and rhythm, of moving our bodies with music, of creating motions that reflect and embellish the music—these are joys that we share. And the sensuality of the music and the dance, that joyful eros of Dionysian madness, a drunkenness that doesn’t always require alcohol—that, he and I also share as surely as we share the air we breathe.
With the angel’s help, I was able to feel the kinship with this man, and by extension, with all humanity, in a way that wouldn’t have been possible had it been just a mental exercise. This gnosis occurred on a level that bypassed my rational brain and my conditioned responses to the perceived Other.
Thank you, sir, for bringing this understanding. May you dance in joy for the rest of your days!
Lovely. It reminds me of a Christmas Eve on a crowded NYC subway going north from Wall Street. There was a bunch of young gods of Wall Street on the train, well inebriated from an office party. They were having a good time and tried to perk up the car with cries of “Smile! It’s Christmas Eve!” and the like. Well, this was NY in the ’80s and not many people smiled. Ever. But I couldn’t take it; I cracked. A smile. They spied my slip with triumphant cries: “A smile! How about you? It’s Christmas Eve!” and in rather quick order the whole car was smiling and laughing up into Times Square. It gave us all a shot of humanity in a sometimes inhumane town.