On the Train, a ‘Girl on Fire’

Dear Diary:
After landing in New York a few weeks ago I took the E train from Jamaica to Pennsylvania Station, where I was meeting a friend.

At first the car was full of people, some just-arrived travelers like me balancing their luggage against the jolting of the train, and I backed myself into a corner to avoid disrupting the ebb and flow of people that occurred at each station.

About halfway through the journey the train was empty enough that I could sit down, with my small rolling bag pinched between my legs. A few seats away from me sat a woman and her two children, a girl and a boy. She was singing “Girl on Fire” to them, in a calm and certain voice, rich like butter. And the children were both totally enraptured.

I watched the three of them reflected in the dark glass of the window opposite me, willingly part of an intimate moment unfolding in public, until the mother took the children’s hands in her own and disembarked.

Now, back in the North Carolina suburbs, “she’s a lonely girl” and “it’s a lonely world” reverberate in my head.

This originally appeared on the Metropolitan Diary of the New York Times.


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