A few years back I was riding the Metro home from DC. It was a Sunday afternoon in late November, the sky was clear and sunny but it was cold. I had come from Union Station and before that Richmond. I had been in the RVA for Sid's 19th birthday, which was well worth the trip. It was around that time though I was teetering on making the biggest decision in my life: if I should join the Army. And as anyone who has stood on the precipice of life-altering choices can tell you it tends to occupy your mind. At the time I was well practiced in masking my thoughts when I had a mind and despite that fact that I was amoungst the closest people to me in the world there was enough going on (READ: Sex, Boose and Weed) to keep them from prying into my pysche; therefore my preocupation went unnoticed and kept at bay.
But on the trip back to V-Town reality set in with the strength that only lack of sleep and soberity lends. Thus I found myself lost in thought as I boreded the Orange line and slouched deep into my seat. It wasn't until halfway through the ride I noticed a woman noticing me. She was mid-to-late 20's, attractive in an elementary-school teacher way and was with an older woman. I can't say why but I could tell after five seconds the older woman was her mother. I made eye contact with the young woman (Which was risky I know. Eye contact on the Metro can be a form of assualt in some people's minds.) and she smiled at me. (Which could be interprited as attempted murder.) Before I could even manage a feeble, worn-down, hungover half smile she asked me if my sweatshirt said SHIP. I responded with suprise that yes it did, it was short for Shippensburg University in PA. She told me she knew it, she was an alum and we fell to talking. We talked about where we lived, how bad the football team sucked, how renovations were going and our favorite places to party. Her mother looked awkwardly on.
In the course of our conversation I explained how I was no longer a student there and when asked what I was doing now I gave a response I had never given before. I told this young woman, this stranger who knew all about the CUB and Bard and Maxie's and Naugle that I was about to join the Army. I told someone I didn't even know the name of something I hadn't ever said out loud before. Something I wasn't until that moment sure I was going to do. My family had no idea, my friends had no idea, my lady at the time had no idea and I spilled the beans first to a random woman and her mother on the Metro.
I don't know why I told her. I don't know why I didn't talk about NOVA and Culinary Arts. I guess it was because as much as I knew nothing about this random woman I did know some. She knew how Ship smelled. She knew Naugle was the ghetto and Richard St. had had a riot. She called me a ShipMate. For some reason right then shared experience counted for a lot.
In the end she and her mother got off at Falls Church East and I rode to Vienna/GMU. I walked the half mile to Nottaway where I'd parked the Green Monster and drove home as the sun went down. And as I walked up the driveway to the house that wasn't home anymore that held the family who would look with disaproval on my unkept and obviously strung-out appearience I wasn't as tired as I had been. I felt a little bit lighter and a little more certain of myself for the first time in a long time.