Left to Ask

by Michael Klein

Michael Klein

I was struck today by a man and a woman in Yankee baseball
clothing sitting on the shuttle train that runs from East to
West on 42nd Street - the most anonymous of all train rides
because we are in and out of each other's lives in one train
stop. She was probably beautiful, the blond in the Yankee
shirt, but tonight she had obviously been crying and her
makeup was smeared and her hair was a mess from the
crying but I kept thinking that maybe she had been fighting
with her hair because she had to resort to beating herself up
since the person she was mad at wasn't listening to her.
Anyone could see he wasn't listening to her. He (her
husband?) was staring off into the shuttle distance,
awkwardly making eye contact with complete strangers,
moving his head away from her when she wanted a simple
explanation and not engaging with her on any level. And
there she was - dropped from a height, it seemed, down into
that garish loneliness in public that both of them may have
made all the time but for this moment was a hell he had
made for her to live in. All she wanted was an answer to a
simple question which seemed to me when I heard it in her
plaintive half-crying voice one of the hardest questions to
have to ask someone who is supposed to love you: Why
won't you dance with me? How difficult it must have been
to hear a question like that and then have to give a real
answer. How lonely it must be, after the ball game, to go
home to a house where there is no dancing and the only
question left to ask has already been asked.

Last updated July 12, 2015