I met her on the train. It was weird. I was weird. No one talks on the train. You might occasionally hear “you dropped something” or “excuse me” though even that is rare. Most people will let you lose something or bump into you without a word.
I’ve been on the train when you run into someone you know and even that is jarring. You’re in a closed off bubble despite being surrounded by hundreds of people. Somehow a train ride is more solitary than being absolutely alone. We wear a mask, nod and smile, continuing with the remainder of our day.
So when she asked “Where do you get your work done?” (referring to my tattoos) I was at a loss for words. I had noticed her before she spoke though embellishing her with any more credit than ‘she was standing in front of me’ would be a lie. She had tattoos as well. The tattoos were fine. She was fine.
The exchange felt like as plastic as having a suddenly animated mannequin start talking to you, every bit as surprising and benign.
“South Brooklyn,” I replied. It should have been enough to end the conversation and return to my bubble, after all, she was clearly the fodder bred by the expectations of North Brooklyn (where I worked).
“A place in Sheepshead Bay.”
For some reason the name eluded me. I could say the name and the conversation would be over. Regardless, the conversation would be over in one train stop – my stop – so I only had resist the urge to shut down and be awkward for a few more minutes.
“It’s good work,” she said.
That would be it, right? No more awkward conversation?
“All the same artist,” she asked.
“Uh no, this one and this one,” I said pointing to each one, “were done by two different artists. Neither are there anymore.”
“Oh,” she said, “and the name of the place?”
“Inked With Envy.” The home stretch. We were pulling into the station as I answered. I pointed toward the door and said, “My stop.”
We stood in silence for the remaining 30 seconds. The doors opened and I returned to my bubble.