Today I rode the train downtown. Morning train commuters are more self-contained than bus commuters. It's quiet, everyone in his own bubble. I stand all the way downtown.
It's a different crowd on the way back. Almost noon. A tall, thin woman sits beside me with her daughter. She is pregnant, but long and slender above and below her tidy, rounded belly. Clear-skinned, high cheekbones.
"I bet there won't be any kids there," the girl bumps her toes against the seat in front of her. Embroidery sparkles at the bottoms of her leggings.
"I bet there'll be a lot," says mom.
"I bet none," daughter sneaking a smile up at mom.
"I bet a lot! Look look, do you recognize it? There's the park."
They get off, whispering together, and mom's seat is taken by a stringy man in a beard. His jeans hang loose from his thighs.
He might be homeless, but I don't know for sure.
I look up at the next stop to see a transit cop standing at the front of the car.
"I need everybody to show me proof of payment. Ticket stub, fast pass."
She seems to have materialized in place. Full transit cop gear. Jacket, badge, heavy things strung from her belt.
The stringy man beside me bolts for the door, crossing directly in front of the transit cop. It's too late. The doors are closed, and he pings back and forth in the stairwell, pushing the door releases, palms open against the doors.
"You won't get out that way, sir," the transit cop says to him, softly. She doesn't want to bust a homeless man.
He's trapped, and he knows it. He buzzes past her again, toward the back of the car. She watches after him, then lifts a chin at the passenger closest to her. He shows his fast pass.
I lift out my pass, looking over my shoulder toward the back of the car. What can they do to a homeless guy? Normally it's a fine, but if someone doesn't have ID, doesn't have an address? It's not like she can arrest him, can she?
I can't see the stringy man, but I can hear him bumping up against each door of the car like a pinball. I imagine him fretting to the end of the car, pinned against the back door, heart thrumming in his chest.