The Ride Home – A true Story

As I squeezed past a sea of bodies, ever so tenderly, onto the evening train, I braced my heeled feet firmly on the platform, ready to counter the jostling start of the familiar jerking motion. I clung to the bit of bar rail that I claimed as mine, for dear life as we lurched forward and homeward. Much to my pleasant surprise, a few stops later, a seat presented itself. How could I possibly say no to such an invitation?

So I sat squished and pinned between two fellow travelers and resigned myself to faraway daydreams and my iPod. It wasn’t long before said daydreams were scattered like a universe of dandelion seeds in a cosmic windstorm and all hope of oblivious thought yanked itself from under me. She strolled on like she owned the joint and couldn’t have been more than 25 all said and done. In tow, right behind her, were her two little girls, decked out in shocking pink running shoes with a matching dress and a vibrant summer number complete with a faux black leather jacket ensemble.

I was instantly hooked, transfixed and hypnotized.

The young woman’s eyes were lined with tar black make-up that circled ‘round as if protecting them from some unseen force; a gateway to another world lurked there…I just know it. Glitter adorned her cheeks, striped blue leg warmers – much more like ankle warmers from where they sat, kissed her ballet black flats and a sparkling rhinestone tiara sat royally atop her small head. The girls, no more than perhaps four and six years of age, snuggled in beside her and amused themselves while to my astonishment, the ‘bedroom eyes’ were not near complete; in fact they were only just beginning to take shape.

I watched in stunned silence as the train shook and rumbled along, stop after stop as she pulled out coal-coloured mascara and proceeded to gingerly add several thick layers onto her long lashes. When I thought surely the finished presentation of those eyes were ready for the world she further shocked me by rooting through her large magic bag of beauty aids and pulled out a box of luscious fake eyelashes.

Completely fascinated, I watched her tenderly paint them with the tar-like substance she must have used for outlining her eyes and attach them to her upper lid, just so. I waited. Was this it? Were those flashy vampire lookers ready for their debut? No, they were not! Out came the little jar of tar once again to overlay yet another layer of the blackest black to further extend the illusion. I’d never seen anything like it.

Finally ready for her evening glamour show, it was time to deal with the little ones who were busy fussing over a pink hat and incessantly cleaning a pair of eyeglasses with ample spit and a large deposit of thumb grease. From deep down inside the magic sack came a massive hairbrush which the woman angrily plowed through curly tangles of matted bleached hair that had been wind-whipped, snarled and possibly used to store bubble gum several hours earlier. The six-year old sat rigid and stoic as if this ritual were repeated several times a day. It probably was. The brush disappeared and from the bottomless void she produced a large bottle of hairspray to make damn sure there would be no misunderstandings of where each hair needed to be.

Now it was time for the littlest princess. The evil brush reappeared as if from thin air and she braced herself for the thrashing; clearly she was used to such torture but complete defeat was yet a few years away along with accepting that resistance was absolutely futile. Screwing up her face she complained and when the bottle of hair glue found its way out of the sack once more, she promptly shut her eyes tight and pinched her little nose with chubby fingers that ended in dirty cherub fingernails. But the wicked woman wasn’t near finished. Out came yet another bottle of substance called “Frizz Be Gone!” and the poor soul was showered yet again with wet stickiness. I desperately wanted to hand her my umbrella.

She was then crowned with a black ribbon headband and finally – they were all complete. And just in time for their stop, too. A cold electronic voice announced the next stop as ‘Braid’ and as the dynamic trio made their way off to whatever fantasy they were destined for, I froze.

Braid? BRAID?? I don’t remember a stop called ‘BRAID’!!

Not only had I missed getting off where I should have – so mesmerized by this fabulous show – but I’d completely gotten on the wrong train.

Now think what I would have missed had I stepped onto the right one.

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