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2004-07-30 - 4:37 p.m.

My eyes roll over a thousand faces a day on the subway. Everyone, their mother, and their bookie seems to be on the train at eight oíclock in the morning. Consider the fact that one has to fight for breathing room in a can ten feet, by fifty feet, and you start to get the picture. There are heads everywhere. It looks like a Laugh-In sketch gone horribly wrong; like the entire cast got cued at the same moment and tried to squeeze out the same door. It becomes like an evenly spread paste of anxious looks, painting every corner of the train car. You get used to it, and in lieu of a newspaper or a novel, you end up staring at your shoes, or someone elseís, fighting eye contact with the endless, nameless mob.

Surrounded by that kind of muck, seeing a familiar face can be an uplifting experience, even if you donít know her name. Every day, during my commute I see the same woman on the platform and then on the train.

Iím sure it was the red hair that made me notice her initially. Red hair really isnít that big of a deal for me, but I do take notice. Her particular mane surrounds her head like a flaming frizzy halo. The matching lipstick that covers her eternal pout makes her face seem even paler than it might otherwise. Her eyes are dark, and drawn into her face; not sunken, just withdrawn.

I realize that a subway train ride doesnít exactly put one in a position to be emotional, but I have not yet seen an expression on her face that could not be read as ďpensive.Ē You bump into someone. You apologize. They smile. You smile. Sometimes the train moves a little too quickly and you make the ďwhoaĒ face. These things happen, but her features remain dour. And I donít think itís botox related. We cross paths twice a day, nearly every day, but Iíve never seen her leave her game face.

It could be this mystery, or possibly the sleek knee length dresses she seems to prefer, but every time I see her I picture her entering from the shadows in a noir film. Sheís the dour noir. I can picture her as she walks onto the stage in a grizzled lounge, the spot placed uncomfortably off center, just lighting the right side of her face. In front of her, and old school radio style microphone. As something slow and sultry slinks out of her mouth, her fingers wrap around the mic stand, not actually coming into contact, just moving in orbit around it. The room doesnít go silent, just quiet. None of the toughs want to let it known that theyíre listening so intently. After a few moments without noise, they purposely cough or let their glasses clank against the bar, to be sure no one catches on. When the song ends, she gives a quick nod to the piano player and slides up to the bar.

(After some thought, if I was to slam myself into this little scene, I realized with utter certainty that I would not, could not be the tall dark handsome, mystery man, hero. A.K.A. Bogart. My reasoning for this is simple. The hero in noir always wears his hat either straight ahead, or tipped slightly down. If I tried to wear a fedora like that, Iíd look like I was part of an embarrassing impression of Michael Jackson in Moonwalker, thus making the phrase ďHereís looking at you, kid,Ē creepy and disturbing. My hat would have to be tipped back, the crown resting a few inches behind my hairline, rendering me as the fast talking reporter, Jimmy Olsen typeÖhenceÖ)

The Doir: Whatís the good word, Jack?

Me: The good word is whiskey, honey. And Iíll keep saying until the barkeep throws me outta this joint.

The Doir: The stiffs still running you around upstairs?

Me: Like a greyhound. Iím still waiting for word from the chief if I can take a deep breath.

The Doir: You donít need air to be writing, Jackie.

Me: It helps, hon. Let me tell ya. It helps.

The conversation would continue further, but letís be honest, Iím a side character, probably there just to relate some exposition, so about that time the P.I. would walk in and squat down in a corner, with his eyes clouded by smoke.

Me: Looks like your biggest fan just walked in.

The Doir: Him? Until he sends me a pair of pearl earrings in the mail, heís got some work to do.

Me: Well heís sending a stare over here now, if that counts for much.

The Doir: Last I checked you canít bring a stare to the pawnshop.

Me: No. But, if you brought the eyes you might get a sawbuck.

The Doir: Letís find out if heís in a giving mood. After all, those eyes have been everywhere on me but in my pocket.

Me: Might be new and exciting.

The Doir: And I could always go for a little excitement.

As the Doir sways off to meet the hero and start rustling up a plot, I, in my last line of the shot look up, saying:

Me: Whiskey, barkeep, and letís keep the iceberg out of there.

Since we literally bump into each other nearly every day, Iíve tried to give her a quick smile and nod of recognition, but all I get in reply is the same look she always wears. Iím not looking for a phone number or anything, it's just that a nod is better than the quick moment of recognition followed by a panicked attempt to look away. Still, me saying hi seems to do little more than make her more uncomfortable, so Iíll keep my eyes on the shoes. The many, many shoes.

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