Ephemeral friendships

Tucson, Arizona; Undated 

People are so much more than their body language suggests. He barely looked me in the eyes. It’s a shame…because his eyes were so beautiful.  I try not to come across as intimidating but I can only do my best. “Bye Rachelle,” he whispered, as we went our separate ways. It’s ironic that he was darting eye-contact so frequently– and yet was attentive enough to remember my name.

On the way to L.A (last night) I sat next to an older man. My guess is late 50’s. Black. Wearing a top hat. Fixes airplanes. Several years in the Navy. His life was engaging, and his personality was gentle and humorous. Laugh was incredible. I loved that he laughed so hard at his own jokes. Like he waited to see if I thought it was funny and then full-fledgedly joined in, his deep tone echoing throughout the train.


He listens better than anyone I’ve ever met. So attentive to each word I spoke– as if he entered my thoughts and felt them before he heard them. He talked a lot about himself, but when the conversation turned back to me, he was like a switch: Now, now it’s about you, and I am listening, and I want to know what you have to say. I want to be there with you.  That’s what I heard while I was talking.

His wife died. He re-married. Was on the train headed to meet his 2nd wife, who was in the hospital dying as well. This man made my heart light up and my smile brighten. I don’t think I’ll ever forget his laugh, for a reason I can’t explain. He spoke a lot about how his wife uses all his money for “art.” I could sense he resented her for this. He is a good guy and was being taken advantage of. I understood. And it’s a tough job–masking bitterness. I struggle as well.

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I'm the mother of a 1 year old, a wife, and a anthropology grad living in Beijing.

3 Comments on "Ephemeral friendships"

    Wonderful description. Makes you wonder what will happen to him now…I have never considered taking the train to get to LA. Do you prefer that to flying?

    Thank you Maril 🙂 ya, I wonder what his life is like now. He made such an impact on mine. I actually bought a rail pass, so I had been exclusively using the train. I like flying too. But the pass was a more scenic way of traveling the country.. and it’s also cheaper. If you’re just going to one destination, like to LA and back, flying would be cheaper. But it was the rail pass (15, 30, 45 days) that allowed me to travel inexpensively

    We have thought about it, but what do you do for transport at the other end of the line? We have been reading about the proposed new line between Phoenix and Tucson.

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