Some U of T students behind me on the subway:
“Where did you say he is?”
“Gone to get a tattoo!”
“A tattoo of what?”
“Huh? A what?”
“Ravenclaw. From Harry Potter. He’s a fan.”
“I hope he’s going to be a fan forever.”
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.
**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.