A Moment of Recognition

I got off the BART train this evening hungry, fumbling for my ticket to let me through the turn style, deep in thought. I happened to pause for a second, and glance up, looking back in the window of the train. And there, still seated on the train, head down in a business document was someone I once knew very well. This was the person who I’d lived with, who first told me of the events of September 11th as I stood in my pajamas in complete disbelief, someone who I had known better than anyone in this world. He is the only person in this life with whom I have shared the words “I do,” albeit it long ago on a warm summer afternoon in Berkeley. We had exchanged sacred vows in front of family and friends and God. And yet there he was, sitting quietly, reading.

There was a certain amount of joy in recognizing this face, and so I ran to the window and tapped it with my left knuckle. As he looked up, I saw that he was tired, worn out from the day, and now wearing a full beard. He looked so different, and yet so very much the same as the person I’d been so in love with. And as his eyes recognized me, after looking half startled, he smiled. I waived happily, quickly, and said “hi,” even though I knew he could not hear me. We held each other’s glance, and then I walked on, towards the stairs.

As the train pulled away, he looked up again, found me still on the platform, and waved. A friendly, loving wave. And then looked back down to continue reading as the train headed south out of the station.

It was an unusual moment, being met with someone I’d once known so well and had not seen in many months. And now, with time, and distance, emotions and differences, and a train window, we were as far apart as any two strangers could be. Yet, for that one brief moment, there was the joy of recognizing someone who had been as dear and close to my heart as anyone in this world.

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  • Liz
    January 27, 2009 at 6:01 am

    Paula, that is so sweet….

    I can remember 7 years ago when my FIL died my husband’s ex-wife came to the funeral. I didn’t know at first how to handle that but it turned out alright. Later that night my husband sat me down and told me he needed to talk to her because he never received closure. I kindly let them talk privately over the phone. About 2 hours later he came in the room and all he really told me was that the chapter was closed. She has never been talked about much since. The chances of us ever running into each other is very slim. We don’t live in the same state. I am proud of my husband for taking that step. I am not so sure I could have done it.

  • Paula
    January 27, 2009 at 7:54 am

    Thanks, Liz. I think it was wonderful that you could let them have that conversation. It takes strength of character and a strong level of comfort in your own relationship to allow them that space. I’m sure your husband treasures that, and it’s clear that you have a very strong bond with him.

    For me, it’s nice to have closure with my ex, and nice to know that we are friendly and kind to one another now. We split about 4.5 years ago. I’m proud of he and I for being good to one another through it all.

  • kateyleigh
    January 28, 2009 at 1:07 am

    Beautiful post, Paula…

  • Katherine E.
    January 30, 2009 at 2:51 am

    What a lovely, wistful post. Thank you.

    My husband went to Movie Trader the other day and brought home “Somewhere in Time” for me. I’d never seen it. It has this same wistful quality I read in your words.

    Thank you.

  • Paula
    January 30, 2009 at 7:35 am

    Thank you Katey and Katherine! I’ll have to admit I was a bit nervous about sharing something so personal. For a long time, it was hard to talk being divorced because I felt I’d failed at something. I don’t feel that way anymore, I very much feel like I learned a lot, and I’m grateful for the lessons learned.

    I will have to check out “somewhere in time” – it sounds like a good film.