On a not-so-full A Train one sits on benches across from other riders. I also enjoy the sardine ride - you get more intimate than you ever could intend to - hearing the music in their ear buds, whiffs of cologne, deodorant, coffee breath, and touching, totally unintentionally sometimes, their soft coat or smooth leather satchel. But the vacuous A Train is even more intimate.
I observe, shamelessly, a young man about the age of my youngest son, riding with three girls to or from some evening event. I see his body language and hear the tone in his voice and I think to myself, if only his mother could witness this. He was cocky, yet sweet and endearing. Just modest enough to allow for good humor and mild embarassment at their mocking and teasing, but confident and bold in bursts of rebuttle. He was trying things on. Trying on the attitudes that one might think should be expected - but not committing to them. Is he a show off? Is he a joker? Is he a puppy dog? Is he a poet? He played it so cool. At moments just an eyebrow let you know. Then, as his silly bursts were moderated with self-control, you saw that he was instinctively monitoring their responses moment by moment, giving them everything they asked for. He generously entertained, carefully managed the three, taking it all in.
As the girls joked and teased, like one organism of delightful self-promotion, they took turns jumping out of their seats with emphasis, or pulling on his scarf, or whispering in one-anothers' ear. Because I also have a daughter like this they were just as much fun to watch, as they rode high on this moment of his attention. They were far more conscious of their own actions than of his. He could do no wrong. No screenwriter could have better scripted, nor director directed, the scene that played for me in vivid 19-year-old technicolor.
As I enjoyed the show I constantly thought of his mother. Not theirs - for they were who they are fully, and their mothers enjoy it every day. But I would bet his mother has never seen this prescient testing of his man-wings, this bright boy glowing with growing-up him, and all that he is trying to discover in that metamorphosis. She probably sees the sullen shrugs and gets the half grinning grunts every mother of a teenaged boy gets - I just hope she knows, as I know, that all of this orchestra of social brilliance is in there. In his awareness of the situation I see a poet. I am celebrating him for her, in case she hasn't seen him yet.