From my seat on the southbound Blue Line train this morning, I looked up from page 217 of Gore Vidal’s Burr where I just read the words:
Eventually all things are known. And few matter.
As I contemplated that wonderfully stated truth I stared out the window and saw we were passing passing 97th Street. The next stop would be the station closest to my beloved Watts Towers that are only a short walk from there.
I strongly considered detouring from my duties to spend the day there in the vicinity of Simon Rodia’s magnificent creation and draw some much-needed inspiration from its creative power, but I was distracted from further plotting any such insurrection by a young girl in my periphery seated across the aisle from me with her mother in the seat in front of her. I didn’t have to be looking right at the child to know she was looking right at me and as the train began to slow I turned my head slightly and met her gaze — at which point her face broke out into the most radiant and beautiful and joyous grin. There was so much happiness in it I couldn’t imagine it being wasted on me, just a commuter heading to work. This was a smile reserved for the surprise discovery of Santa Claus on Christmas Eve or for a father coming home safely after years soldiering in Iraq.
I smiled back, but self-consciously as always because of the old eternal nerve damage suffered from my motorcycle accident that’s left part of my upper lip’s musculature unwilling to participate in the process. But none of that mattered to her and she reveled in my acknowledgement and I basked in her glow until she finally turned away to her mom and got busy twisting one of the four-braided pony tails sprouted from the top of her head.
After the train left the 103rd Street station, of course I was still aboard and on my way to where I was expected to be, and before the train rolled into my stop at the Wilmington station from which I catch the Green Line we looked at each other again and I was rewarded with another big smile. There was no way I could match its sparkle and glee and warmth, but I tried.
I couldn’t resist pulling out my camera. But instead of her unforgettable smile, I caught a candid of the beautiful little girl who made my day as she was busy with a fingernail, which I’ll post after I get home tonight.
UPDATED (4/11): Here she is catching the sunlight in her hands.