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October 23, 2016
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A chance encounter

Valentine’s Day always brings a crowd on the train trying to get home early to loved ones. When it landed on Friday this year, the train was especially packed with travelers, flowers in hand, myself included. I grabbed the train north from Hoboken Terminal, and it being the first station, I got a two-for-one, not only a seat on what would be a crowed train, but also a chance encounter.

Placing my flowers in the overhead rack, I settled into a two-seater to watch the crowd pile in at the next stop, Secaucus. Usually I would be boarding here, but not today. Florists in Penn Station and Hoboken live for this holiday; the bouquets are so large that most faces can hide behind them. As the cascading trail of flower-carrying passengers boarded, there was a break in the action… and there she stood. Looking like a cool glass of water on a hot summer day, her smile mirrored the sparkle in her eyes. Sitting diagonally across from me, she asked if the seat was taken, I was immediately smitten, like a school boy. The New York Post would be the prop that I would use today to hide behind to steal a glimpse of her from time to time.

Once in a while a new face grabs a person’s attention, sometimes for the wrong or right reason, depending on a person’s point of view. The general rule on the train, for married people at least, is looking is OK but no staring, talking, or anything past a quick “hi.” Any interaction that goes further can be viewed as a violation of the rules and open to interpretation and gossip. Yet there are occasions to break the rules and a pretty face is one of them.

Waiting in the cold on the platform had put a blush to her lips and cheeks, her blond hair fell perfectly into place as she removed her hat and scarf. I, too, was blushing as she glanced over her shoulder at me, thinking for sure she had seen me staring, but she turned away with nary a notice. Remembering the “rules” I tried to put my thoughts to the crossword puzzle. Being Valentine’s Day, the subject matter of the crossword questions did nothing to keep my mind from wandering. First one: Italian word for beautiful—answer “bella.” (Oh boy, this was going to be a long trip.)

So a wandering my mind did go, the questions filling my head like the crossword puzzle. Why was she in the city? Did she enjoy her day? How would she react if I struck up a conversation? On either side of my shoulders, my conscience of good and evil were whispering into my ears, each making perfect sense to me. At long last I thought to myself carpe diem, and off I went, flowers in hand. Using the bouquet to shield my face I presented them first, speaking with a sheepish, “I thought you might like these.” She looked up from her book, smiled and reached out for them with a sweet, “thank you.” We rode the rest of the trip speaking of our day and of the weekend that lie ahead, like two very familiar friends. Since it is rare that I see my wife Evelyn on the train coming from the city, it was a chance encounter indeed and the start of a lovely weekend.