A MESSAGE IN MY HAND
 

(A prose poem)
 
 

I remember a girl I saw on the New York Subway many years ago. I didn't talk to her, but just saw her standing as I was. All the seats were taken and passengers were standing shoulder to shoulder, which is usually the case at work quitting time. We may have both gotten on at the same station. She seemed to appear suddenly, and she looked very familiar. I thought I had seen her many times before. She made me aware that my life at the time was very empty, and I imagined how wonderful it would be if she were in it. As I had done many times before, I closed my eyes while the train went from station to station and fantisized.

I was very much alone at this time in my life, even though I was sharing an apartment with my father. I don't remember seeing him very much. He was never there when I got home from work. He must have had a life I knew nothing about.

This girl I was seeing seemed to match the girl I often fantisized about. Her eyes, her lips, her hair were as familiar as my own. Several times when I opened my eyes to see what station we were going into we looked at each other and exchanged faint smiles.

During one part of our trip I imagined us dancing to the rhythm of the speeding and swaying train as it left the station. After a while it got pretty intimate. I imagined her lips against mine and her fingers in my hair. Then I imagined her face in the pillow next to mine.

We shared breakfast every morning of our lives. She waved as I went off to work and greeted me with hugs and kisses upon my return.

As the train slowed down upon arriving at another station, fear suddenly struck. When the train stopped I opened my eyes to see if she got off. My breath stopped as the train stopped to let people on and off. I was overjoyed to see her face over a mountain range of shoulders and newspaper clouds as the doors closed and the train moved on.

Between stations I continued with the quietness of my dreams. I imagined her holding our baby in her arms as we rocked with the speeding train. The three of us traveled to the most distant lands and walked all the streets of the world holding hands. Our home overlooked a land of joyful dreams.

I opened my eyes again as the train slowed down and saw that she was still there. The train came out of the ground and into the sun. She smiled at me and to my utter surprise she stretched her arm over shoulders of the people between us and handed me a message and then stepped onto the station platform and disappeared. I waved to her so nobody would see me. She had given me her phone number. All she said was, Hello, My name is Sarah. I don't have a steady boyfriend. If you don't have a steady girl friend, why don't we meet sometime over a cup of coffee? I'd like to know what you were thinking when you clothed your eyes. Please phone me!

When I got home I sat in the empty kitchen and looked at her message. Then I thought of my father and his married mistress and I thought of my mother in Hudson River State Hospital. I didn't think there was anything I could offer Sarah. I imagined how she would react to my telling her about my mother. I never did phone her. I never saw her again. I threw her message away. While I never forgot her, memory of her has stayed with me all the years to the present. If she is still alive, I wonder what kind of life she is living, and whether she ever thinks of the ride we took together over fifty years ago.