I board the commuter train in Palo Alto
heading home to San Mateo and take
a seat facing you but one seat over.
I settle my belongings, then myself, and
without intending to, begin to take you
in: your San Francisco State book bag,
your green, thermal-knit shirt, your
immaculate jeans with a chunky silver
chain attached to one of your belt loops
and fishing down into your right pocket.
A black ring-binder is open in your lap,
all the pages smooth and shiny, printed
in full-color, a textbook, but loose-leaf.
Is that the way they make them now?
I can read part of one of the headings
upside down, something about
sustainable growth. Maybe you’re a
green-guy with your long dark hair,
parted down the middle, caught in a low
ponytail, a rugged black, resin-strapped,
green-guy watch around your wrist.
Your head begins to nod, down, down,
down until your chin is on your chest.
You jerk upright and try to focus on your
book, but your eyes get heavy and your
head gets heavier, and you nod, nod, nod,
down, down, down several times more,
until you finally give in to the sleep-
inducing, rocking-rolling motion of the
train, put away your binder, and lean
your head against the window. You are
falling asleep again, but now your head
slides down the glass. You pull your head
up, it slides down the glass, you pull your
head up, it slides down the glass several
times, until at last, you rest your head on
the back of the seat, and go to sleep.
Your face relaxes. Your lips soften and part.
You look so young, so vulnerable, so peaceful,
sweet. We are strangers on a train, but what is
infinitely stranger is what I feel: a sudden
impulse to kiss your lips so imperceptibly you
would never know it happened. I am startled.
What an odd thing to think. I sense no sexual
spin on it, so what bubbled up from my inner
life into reality just then?
Days later an answer comes to me.
The imagined kiss feels like it was
a benediction on the innocence,
the seemingly limitless future,
the promise and vulnerability of youth,
my own youth,
I am tenderly kissing goodbye.