It had been a frustrating day. My earphones were in and I was knitting on the subway ride home. I had a long trip and it was rush hour, so I was of course thrilled when I saw the subway car wasn’t all that busy. I grabbed a seat and a woman who had been standing next to me on the platform sat down next to me. She stared at my hands as they went to town on the baby blanket. I ignored her–like most of us in the city. That’s what we do…we ignore each other.
I saw her lips moving, but with my headphones in it just looked as though she were singing along to some Toto–that’s right, TOTO! Old school. I took out my headphones out and raised my eyebrows at her. I was all prepped to be annoyed, come out swinging. But I looked into her soft gray eyes, little wrinkles around the corners and I felt my body relax. I recognized her–she had been on the train a week before and she had asked about my knitting then, too.
Me: I’m sorry. What did you say?
Her: It’s coming along nicely…fast, too.
She had an accent of some sorts–Spanish was her first language I could tell.
Me: Thanks. It’s a surprisingly easy pattern to follow. It just looks fancy.
Her: It’s just lovely. May I?
She gestured to the yarn, asking to touch it. I nodded and she closed her eyes as she felt the soft alpaca yarn on her fingertips. She kept her eyes closed as she spoke.
Her: I used to know how to crochet and knit. My mother taught me such a long time ago but I just can’t remember.
There was a sadness to the way she spoke. It was a hollow whisper even though she was speaking at a normal volume. Something caught in my throat.
Me: I could show you sometime. It really is easy. Are you on this train a lot?
Her: Depends on what you define as ‘a lot.” I used to live in the homeless shelter in Park Slope. I go back to visit friends and volunteer still.
I had never known anyone–truly known or had a conversation with anyone I knew had been homeless.
Me: Where do you live now?
Her: They placed me in a home in the East Village. I can’t afford a television and I was thinking that knitting would be a cheap form of entertainment.
I nodded. What else could I say? Just as I was about to ask her her name, she jumped off the seat, wished me well and hopped off the train. I kicked myself for not getting her name. Not giving her my card. Not thinking of anything else to say to her.
Every day that I travel into the city, I look for her. I have bags and bags of yarn at home and I would love to give her some of it. In my head I call her Rosa–I don’t know why. She just seemed like a Rosa to me.