'I made it, right?' Her voice hinted Northeast, raspy and deep.
'Yes.' I nodded my head, glancing up at the time display above the platform. 'Next train will be here in twenty minutes.' I smiled and looked down, a polite veil for intentional aloofness.
I tried to eye her imperceptibly, surveying her details. She had wild, loose hair and small eyes smudged with coal. Her thin lips were lined bright pink. Her nails, sharp and bright. In her right hand she clutched a Subway cookie bag and in her left a Diet Coke. Even in silence she was loud.
'Do I look like I live in a car?' she asked, unabashed, a challenge.
'I live in a car. Can you believe that? I'm homeless. I look good though, huh? I know I look good...' Her voice trailed away and her eyes wandered around the half-empty station.
'I just left my car in a parking lot on Northlake Boulevard. I stopped making payments on it, so I left it. Do you think that's alright? Will I be in trouble?'
I shrugged and smiled again. Her intensity melted my distance.
'I didn't know what else to do. I'm going down south to find a place to live. I know a guy who can rent me a room in a motel. Maybe I'll find a job. What do you think?'
I nodded with wide eyes. 'Sure, that's possible. Anything is.'
Her eyes made their way down to my belongings. 'That's a nice purse. You must be rich.'
I shook my head. 'Oh no.'
She dropped her eyes to the large suitcase by my feet. 'Where are you going?'
Funny, I thought, our circumstances aren't too far off.
The train arrived, screaming into the station, and I was relieved.
I dragged my suitcase into the closest car and she trailed me into a row. We sat shoulder to shoulder.
A tough-looking guy with cocoa-colored skin sat across from me, our knees touching. I was thankful to be near someone else.
She loudly continued the conversation, suddenly confessing that she thought often about suicide. Pride, for all her might, can quickly dissolve into despair.
She admitted that she had no one. Tears broke through her tiny eyes, gleaming down her worn cheeks. I touched her arm, held her, told her she was special, told her that life was a gift. I meant it. Circumstances fleet and it was a beautiful day.
She turned and faced me, 'You aren't looking down at me... You don't judge me.' Her words were sincere and truthful. Could she really see that? So hard I strived for non-judgment - almost to my detriment - and here a belligerent, sad stranger offered me a precious affirmation. A profound gratitude tingled inside me.
Just then the train arrived at the Boca Raton stop. She sprang up without saying a word and wandered out of the car, into the bright winter day, never looking back. The tough guy got up too, brushing my knees as he stood. Our eyes met and he said, 'Good job.'