She sits motionless, her head cocked away from me, no doubt letting the swiftly passing countryside take her to places far from here. The bruise on her upper arm tells a story unto itself. There are three blue marks in series, someone hit her hard enough to raise blood; and random scratches lower yet say that she fought back with equal fury, probably surprising her attacker who tried to hold her still to no avail.
The girl’s hair, as red as cherry wine, is unwashed and disheveled; not as if she’d been living out of a car, but more as if she’d been in a hurry and hadn’t bothered with a morning shower.
I note her left hand lying in her lap, palm down and fingers outstretched. She’s flexing it a bit, relieving a strain perhaps, or reliving an anxious moment. I can see the mark of a ring on her forth finger, a band of white, puffy flesh amidst a tautly stretched hand tinted brown by machine made tan. Her knuckle on that digit is slightly scraped, making me think she removed her band in a flurry of emotion, without a care as to how much skin came with it.
All of this may be a pessimist’s interpretation. Why her bruise might simply be from her bumping into a doorjamb that held three large petrified wads of chewing gum at shoulder height, the scratches caused by an overactive cat. Maybe she was late to work and had to rush from her apartment before coifing her hair… and the ring thing? I suppose she might have been playing with one of those Chinese finger puzzle things and could get the damn thing off before it made the area pale and swollen.
But there were two more clues that brought me back to my theory. There is a fresh scar on her earlobe, looking much like a round headed stick pin. She’d had a pierced ring ripped out. Yes, it may have been an accident. Sure, she might have been walking along down some city street right along side a commercial building that had just had repairs done to its face, and a stray nail might have been poking from the façade at just the right angle that when she sauntered by, her loop earring, swaying out and in because of the perkiness in her happy step, suddenly slipped over the nail and her forward momentum made any recovery an impossible task… and zzzzip, out came the jewelry. But my guess was she was in a fight, probably with her boyfriend, or husband if I have the ring thing right, and in the scuffle her earring was removed by force, intentionally or no.
What makes me think all this? You’d assume it would be an addiction to soap operas or a fascination with drugstore romance novels. But it’s neither. In the woman’s right hand she grips the stem of a perfect, just barely opened yellow rose. No friend handed her that flower, it has no wrapping, not even a ribbon around its thorny stem. She’d purchased the rose for herself from a street vendor, that’s clear enough. And that the rose is a somewhat unusual color makes me think she bought it with symbolism in mind. Again, I agree, it could just be she likes the color yellow, indeed. But nothing else on her body, not her scuffed shoes nor cotton socks, her rhinestones jeans nor her tie died top were in any measure, any derivative of yellow. No, she strikes me as someone who finds comfort in the metaphor, the silent statement, the secret sign that screams its message to the chosen few who understand and to no one else.
A yellow rose has limited meaning, it’s generally the friend’s offering given to mark a particularly joyous moment in the life of the recipient. It can also mean jealousy and be sent as a sort of poison pen. I think this is different, off the normal path; I think she’s bought this beautiful living thing to commemorate a new beginning for herself, a fresh start, a kind of wax seal meant to notarize her self made contract.
My stop has come and she hasn’t budged. As I step into the aisle to go I can’t help but whisper “good luck lass, you’ll be fine I’m betting.” It’s nothing save a weak encouragement from a random stranger, and yet I feel gratified to have noticed her pondering tomorrows, and the opportunity to toss in a single “don’t be sad, you’re not alone.”
For just a moment I imagined her assuming I was some panhandling bum or worse, a train riding lecher, “eyeing little girls with bad intent”. (Whenever I try to commiserate with a lost soul of the opposite gender I anticipate reprisal based in fear because my gender has made a mess of things since time began) But this time I’m lucky; she smiles as I pass, sucking in a short breath as if to say “was I that obvious?” And then she says “thank you so much.”
I step from the train with a burning in my soul, I’ve done a good thing I think, whether I’m dead on about my supposition or slightly askew. She needed a kindness and she’d moved me to lend her one by simply carrying a yellow rose. Someday I may need to buy one for myself.