The Woman Who Looked Up

Somewhere under Lower Manhattan, she got on the subway.

She had a head full of blonde hair and arms full of tattoos – peonies on the right, a serpent on the left. She sat. Her feet turned towards each other. Her eyes looked down at the floor.

And her eyes were still down on the floor three stops later. So, she didn’t see the man with a guitar and his friend with a silver gift bag get on. But most everyone else did. And they turned their eyes down to the floor. Because it’s common practice to avoid musicians on the subway.

The two men knew this. Still, they started singing “Stand By Me” – an uncommonly tender “Stand By Me” – to all the downcast eyes.

And for the first time in three stops, she looked up. Looked straight at the two men and their uncommonly tender “Stand By Me.”

They hadn’t even gotten to “And the moon is the only light you’ll see,” before she was reaching into her bag. The peonies and the serpent were rippling on her arms as she pulled out a dollar.

It’s common practice to wait until the end of a song to give money to musicians on the subway. But she stood up. And as the two men sang, “No, I won’t be afraid, Oh, I won’t be afraid,” she put her dollar into their silver gift bag.

Then she sat down. Her feet turned towards each other. But her eyes stayed up. So, she saw a guy walk over – as the two men sang, “If the sky that we look upon should tumble and fall” – and put a dollar into the silver gift bag. And she saw a woman and another guy and others do the same until the subway under Lower Manhattan was filled full with uncommon tenderness.

And by “I won’t cry, No, I won’t shed a tear,” the silver gift bag must have been near filled full with dollars. Which came from all these eyes that had been downcast.

Until one pair looked up.

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