Written by Karl at some point during his time in New York.

The name on his jacket started with an “R.” Richards or Rockard maybe. Since it was a camo jacket, the stitching was black which made it hard to read. And, since he was sitting across the isle, my eyes didn’t even have a chance. He sat leaning back. He looked comfortable. His eyes were closed and his lips pursed into a tight line. The scruff on his face looked like a 3-day beard, but it was easy to see how gray it was. His head rested backwards on the window and the New York Yankees hat sat high on his head. His eyes were closed. His skin looked tough like it had been a tanned hide, but was starting to loose the elasticity because of old age. I wasn’t sure if it was the chronological age or the mental age after a hard life. The camo jacket was not a Vietnam jacket. It must have been an Iraq Invasion I jacket. I wondered if he got stuck into Iraq Invasion II. He sat with both hands on his cane which was straight up and down. He looked like the old man that just sat on the park bench for a moment to catch a breath of fresh air. Sitting back because tired, but still resting on the ready cane. Still aware and alert and paying attention to the world around him. I wondered if the cane was because of a war injury. I thought about how many other injuries he might have because of the war that couldn’t be helped along with a cane. People got on and off at different stops and he doesn’t even flinch. Maybe he really is asleep. Passed out? Too much alcohol? The train slows. I’ve lost track of what stop we are at, but as soon as the doors open, he opens his eyes, stands up, and hobbles out the door. Not asleep or passed out at all, but seemingly completely aware of where he is and what is going on around him.

Our train enters the station. Across the other set of tracks there are people milling about waiting for the train for the opposite direction. Our train comes to a stop and the doors open. The two of them somehow stick out from the rest of the crowd. They are waiting at the other platform just like everyone else, but something is intriguing about them. The mother, we will call her Jade, is noticeably tired and worn down. Short cropped jet black hair barely covers her ears on the side of her small round face. I have a hard time differentiating people of Southeast Asia, but Vietnamese pops into my head for some reason. Her long black coat covers her petite frame. Numerous grocery bags and shopping bags surround her. The little girl, we will call her Violet, tugs on her mother’s coat. Jade squats down, the exhaustion on her face apparent to everyone except her little four-year old. Violet whispers something in her mother’s ear. A tired smile crosses Jade’s lips. Violet turns around and sits on her mother’s knee. Violet seems like she feels tired; tired enough that she deserves a seat made by her mother’s leg. Violet doesn’t know how difficult it is to squat after a long day, let alone balance a four year old on your knee at the same time. Jade holds Violet with one arm and holds the wall to keep herself up with the other. She looks down the track to see if the train is coming. Violet is telling Jade a story. Jade rubs her forehead, perhaps trying to get some of the exhaustion lines out. Our train starts moving again. Jade and Violet slowly get smaller and then disappear into the crowd.

The family of three sat… Jim pulled out a handkerchief and pressed it against his eyes. Using his thumb for one eye and his forefinger for the other he pushed hard enough that it seemed he wanted his eyes to fall out the back of his head. He just held the handkerchief there for sometime perhaps waiting for the pain to subside. As he finally drew the handkerchief away, he dabbed at each eye catching the watery drainage that was perhaps caused by the pressure he just put on his eyes, and perhaps was caused by whatever bothered his eyes in the first place. Mimi, head sill on his shoulder, slowly turned her head and looked up at him. I could easily read her lips, perhaps from hearing the question so many times. “How are your eyes?” Jim just closed his eyes and half shrugged in the response I knew all too well. Now just isn’t the time for a response. His sclera was diffusely inflamed. Maybe it was simple conjunctivitis. But maybe it wasn’t. Maybe the diffusely pink eye was a side effect of more serious pathology. Of course macular degeneration, retinal detachment, and cataracts are the popular ones, but there are also more white dot syndromes than I can count, iritis, episcleritis, and retinitis. And that doesn’t even scratch the surface of eye pathology. But the train stops, and they get off. And what Jim sees as he walks out of the train I will never know.