Between Stops

Between Stops

She gets on at the Davis stop with a heavy black backpack. Stylish black coat, black hair in a knot at the nape, low gray suede boots with suede lacing at the back. He and I are already seated; she sits across from us, the pack on her lap. Zzzzip open, reach in; she pulls out an old book with leather covers, scuffed and worn at the edges with a ribbon bookmark that she lifts when she opens it. It’s in Hebrew—a prayer book I think at first—no, it could be a novel, maybe. She could be a Hebrew studies major, Middle Eastern literature? He leans over, hot whisper in my ear, “Shachrit.” Every morning she is grateful for the return of her soul. Every morning she praises the Divine. “After your son died, did you still believe in God?” someone asked us, years before. The train lurches, she stands, turns away from the aisle toward the window, her backpack on the seat before her. Head down, lips moving. It is dark underground, which makes the window a mirror, steps forward, back—bowing—she’s davening. When she looks up she faces herself. I look at her but try not to catch her eye. To her right, another young woman has something in her hand. A pink iPod. Earbuds as headphones, tall tan boot tapping, mouth moving, no sound. The lips of the woman in black continue to move. The lips of the woman in tall tan boots continue to move. It is remarkable that each maintains her own spirit on this short ride. With thousands of my own songs tucked away, I am not sure with whom to identify. Their heads bob together briefly before the pink iPod disappears into a jacket pocket and Tan Boots departs. The davening woman sits and turns the page as the train gathers speed, then she unzips her pack and tucks the prayer book inside. The train slows, her morning prayers timed, once again, for her M.I.T. stop. We don’t speak. He and I watch her leave, wondering why we no longer pray, wondering if we just did.

Alisa Golden writes, prints, makes books and art quilts, and is the editor of Star 82 Review. She teaches writing, letterpress printing, and bookmaking around the San Francisco Bay Area, and her work has been published in Blink Ink, Split Rock Review, Diagram, and Nanoism, among others. She is the author of Making Handmade Books.

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