gesundheit, dreamy and tragic

The other day I encounter a woman on a subway train who is harbouring a secret smile and dreamy look – so dreamy that I figure she must be in the throes of a new romance.  She's looking upward, and if there were clouds above us her head would be in them.  I see new thoughts washing over her because every now and then her smile changes a little and she tilts her head the other way as she gazes off smiling into her imagination. 

She's wearing a satin, East Indian style tunic with paisley prints on it in greens and golds and browns, and purple satin pants.**  At first it is that outfit, together with her short haircut that makes me think of Toni Collette’s portrayal of Fiona, Marcus’s sad, vegan, hippy-styled, new-age mother in the film version of About a Boy.  This woman seems to embody Collette’s Fiona and I think I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see a little boy trailing behind her in a ratty sweater and sensible shoes.

But it is when she begins to mouth a silent conversation with herself and a thread of uncertainty escapes those eyes gazing off into wherever it is she is gazing that it seems to me the resemblance to the character of Fiona is less about the outfit and haircut than it is the underlying personal tragedy that Collette conveys so remarkably in her onscreen performances. 

The woman catches me glancing at her and I feel like an intruder.  Even though it doesn't seem as though I have penetrated her thoughts in the slightest, it is one of those moments when I question the morality of writing these stories, the ethicality of illuminating private moments of others on my public webspace.

Then she sneezes into her hand and with the same hand grabs hold of a bar near me, and she is suddenly plunked right back down to my planet with a large thud. 

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**Suddenly I’m thinking of my UK readers and feel the need to mention I’m talking “trousers.”  Because I won’t forget the looks on the faces of three British men in a house in Wales once, after I (wearing a skirt at the time) announced to them that I was going to go upstairs to put on some pants.  After some rather astonished confusion and not a little amusement, I discovered that the word “pants” means something different in the UK than it does in North America.

 

17 Comments

  1. Reply
    lisahgolden August 17, 2010

    I like these little life snapshots. I don’t think you’re really invading her privacy since you’re not delving into her real life. Her presence was your jumping off point, that’s all.

  2. Reply
    Marilyn August 17, 2010

    I love the insights these wee glimpses of others bring – I also love how she brought you back down to earth!
    The trouser/pants issue is so funny. Both my daughter and daughter-in-law have stories about this. My daughter was teaching a junior class in London, England and they were taking too long to change into their sports gear so she told them to hurry up and take their pants off; they did as she asked much to her horror so she soon learnt to say trousers. My daughter-in-law’s experience was at a job interview again in London, England, and when asked what she would wear for work clothes she said that she would wear her best pants! She did get the job but was told not to speak of pants.

  3. Reply
    Jennifer August 17, 2010

    Thanks Lisa. And I suppose not – who knows what she was dreaming about?

  4. Reply
    Jennifer August 17, 2010

    Hahahahahaha, that’s so funny! It would be fun to see a compilation of “pants” related faux pas!

  5. Reply
    Carol August 18, 2010

    I love the little snippets too and I think Lisa is right….your not sharing their intimate stories…they are your inspiration!
    LOL at the pants thing. When we lived in Thailand I remember going out with a group of the people Chris worked with…it was a public holiday the following day but Chris had to go into the office and i nearly choked when his boss announced that he would be going in his thongs! Turned out he meant flipflops and I thought he meant thongs of the pant variety!!
    C x

  6. Reply
    Jennifer August 18, 2010

    Thanks Carol. I do try to write about strangers with compassion.
    That’s so funny – just recently when we were up at the cottage we were talking about the change in meaning of the word “thongs” – they were flip flops here when I was a kid too. hehe!

  7. Reply
    Poetikat August 18, 2010

    Ha ha on the “pants” story! You could have said, “knickers” too.
    Where in the country did you live, by the way? We’re moving to that charming town that has the mill and the gorge. Know what I mean?
    Kat

  8. Reply
    Poetikat August 18, 2010

    P.S. Oh yeah – wasn’t that great Kitty, Daisy and Lewis? I just happened upon them.
    Kat

  9. Reply
    Jennifer August 18, 2010

    Haha you’re right Kat – but *they* thought I meant knickers when I really meant trousers… oh my – so confusing!

  10. Reply
    Jennifer August 18, 2010

    Oops – just outside of Amherstburg, which is south of Windsor.
    Yes, I do know what you mean – how lovely!

  11. Reply
    Jennifer August 18, 2010

    It was fab – EVERYONE loved it.

  12. Reply
    Little hat August 20, 2010

    Another thought provoking and gentle story Jennifer. I don’t think it’s intruding because you do it much such respect. It’s there in the storytelling. I think all good writing should cause us to examine ourselves. and yours does that. “What assumptions am I making about that woman as i read your lines? How hard it is to reconcile joy and pain in life …….”
    I wear the pants in our house though andrea would dispute that and probably has more pairs than i do. We wear togs too not swimmers or trunks – our wouod-be Prime mInister (God save us) wears ‘budgie smugglers’

  13. Reply
    Susannah August 20, 2010

    Another wonderful slice of life. . . and you made me giggle with the pants explanation at the end. 😉

  14. Reply
    Selma August 20, 2010

    It’s an interesting thought, isn’t it? But I guess we are all invading each other’s privacy in some way. She couldn’t possibly have known what you were thinking or considering – she was probably lost in her own world somewhere.
    I love your slices of life. Don’t you dare stop!

  15. Reply
    Jennifer August 21, 2010

    Gee, thanks Steve. That any story provokes questions and/or self examination is the nicest thing one could say to a writer.
    And I’m wondering if a Prime Minister in a “budgie smuggler” is the same thing as a Prime Minister in a “banana hammock.” Either way, it’s a violation! haha

  16. Reply
    Jennifer August 21, 2010

    Oh the misunderstandings us travellers risk…

  17. Reply
    Jennifer August 21, 2010

    I guess you’re right Selma – and she was definitely in another world. Even given my doubts, I don’t plan to stop any time soon!

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