They had been to the theater. Tom had taken her to a Sondheim musical for her birthday and although it was bedtime on a work night and they still had to cross the Bay on BART, her heart was humming and happy.
The train arrived at the station as they stepped off the stairs. The doors opened and they glided in as if royalty with car service. Sitting together in the middle of the car, they held hands. The noise of the train prevented easy conversation, so they sat in companionable silence. Tom looked at his phone while Charlene looked around the train.
People at this hour in this lighting look ghastly, she thought. We’re all one step from zombies.
There were the usual riders—hipsters, eyes unfocused and balance impaired from their evening of sipping bacon infused vodka drinks, workers going home after a long underpaid day of cleaning office toilets, theater goers, and a homeless man sleeping in the last seat, his back against the wall.
There was one man who was different from the rest and Charlene’s eyes rested on him. He wore a bow tie, a bowler hat and small round glasses. He sat like a perfectly bent paper clip, all right angles, with his hands flat on the top of his thighs. He looked forward, his head slightly nodding to a quiet melody he could hear woven into the canvas of the train noise. He closed his eyes sometime after the Lake Merritt station and the melody settled into him, deepening the nod and becoming a wave in his torso until he fell onto his side, into the seat beside him.
Charlene and Tom got off at the Fruitvale station. Walking by him, Charlene paused to take a long look and decided he must certainly be asleep.