Unbeknownst to her, she was known
These thoughts were in my mind as I rode the train home from another day at work. Such a sampling of humanity packed together in such a small space. Some had probably fallen through the cracks for so long they can't see daylight anymore. Some were probably propagators of the crack-laden system, it works for them so why "fix" it?
It smelled of foreign body odors, perfume, and urine. Claustrophobia threatened to overwhelm me so I tried very hard to breathe through my mouth carefully and watch a fixed point on the wall.
That's when I saw it. At first I thought it was just another piece of street art hastily scrawled on the train wall. Graffiti is everywhere in this city, artists pride themselves on being able to tag the most visible yet inaccessible places. Some of it is beautiful, some ugly, some thought provoking. Most of it is pretty obviously some kid out looking for some risk taking adrenaline.
This was obviously not just another piece of street art. An abstract portrait, focused enough that I could tell it was a portrait of me. It had words scrawled around the face in a semicircle: "You aren't permitted to know"
Know??? Know what? And how come I can't know it? So many questions swirl in my head all the time, it could pertain to any one of them! What's the meaning of life? Is there a god? Is there a vast government conspiracy to hide proof of alien life forms? What should I have for dinner tonight? I was stupefied. The train stopped, the shuffle of feet inching to get to the doors snapped me out of it. A woman sitting next to where I stood cleared her throat and meekly spoke.
"That looks a lot like you, dear." I nodded silently and looked down at her. It was then I realized my mouth was open and my eyes had not moved from the portrait since I noticed it. I didn't want to get off the train, but I became aware that my stop was the next up so I had to decide what to do. I took my phone out of my purse and took a picture of the graffiti. I was tempted to take a selfie with it but somehow that didn't seem appropriate- although I couldn't tell you why.
The train rolled up to my stop and I came out of the mental fog in time to jockey for a place in front of the doors before they opened.
"This is ridiculous", I thought. "There is probably a whole series of these out there of different people who take a certain train regularly with the same convoluted message. Some artist is trying to be edgy or at least get attention."
It occurred to me I had actually never seen any other portraits anywhere, but no matter. This was the most likely explanation and it made sense.
It was surprising to glance back to see the lady where I stood looking at me with contemplative pity. What must she think this is all about? A jilted lover placing his calling card where I was sure to see it? A street punk I was lucky enough to come in contact with playing a prank? In any case, she continued to stare until I breezed through the parted doors.
She was shaking her head and it came into focus within my consciousness that her face held the expression of hearing about the sudden passing of an old acquaintance.