It’s 5:30 on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend.
I’m on the Silver Line metro, with thirty other people.
We are all clutching our suitcases. Clearly everyone is leaving DC for the long weekend. Seven or eight stops go by, and no one departs. At this point, we can all only be going to one place: the airport.
I watch all of the people.
None of us are talking. None of us are telling the others around us where we’re off to, none of us are showing our excitement to have escaped the 9-5 grind (more like 7:30-7 grind in DC), none of us are even acknowledging each other.
One man is lying across both seats in the back corner furiously typing on his laptop; clearly he knows the primo seat. He looks comfortable, but determined. I wonder what he’s typing. Maybe he’s writing a book. Maybe I could have talked to him about writing.
I see people scrolling through their phones. On Instagram, or the News app, or Spotify. I wonder about people’s Spotify playlists. How they are all probably better than mine.
And then I do the unthinkable:
I look at the person sitting right next to me. Her head rests against the window, reading her Kindle. She lets her eyes gloss over a highlighted portion of page 743 of the third Harry Potter book. And then she clicks a few tabs and the screen changes to the fifth Harry Potter book, page 421, as she nods her head in agreement about the highlighted paragraph on this new page. She continues this pattern, flipping between all seven books, rereading highlighted portions.
At one point she accidentally pressed the HOME button. I see that the only books on her Kindle are the Harry Potter ones.
The woman fascinates me. I start imagining the possibilities.
Maybe her family gave her a Kindle so she could stop carrying around hard copies of the books and instead carry them electronically.
Maybe she is on her way to New York to present at a literary conference about her findings in the classic series.
Maybe the world is too much for her, so she prefers to escape to the magical world of Harry whenever she gets the chance.
I wonder just how many paragraphs she has highlighted. I wonder how many times she has read the series, how many times she has read those paragraphs. I wonder if her nodding indicated that she had the paragraphs memorized.
I wonder how long it will take for her to notice me staring at her.
She never notices, on a mission to soak in Rowling’s every word.
I would have told her I totally noticed her British-style suitcase and red and yellow scarf sticking out the side. I would have told her I want to write a bestselling novel on a napkin, too, just like Rowling. I would ask her what she likes more: the story? The words? The characters? The world?
I would tell her about the time I went to Harry Potter World, and inform her about the website to find cheap entrance tickets. I’d make some lame joke about how I got drunk off the non-alcoholic Butterbeer. And I’d hear her laugh. I bet she has one of those unassuming laughs. I bet no one has really made her laugh in a while.
I wonder if she laughs when she reads the funny parts of the series. If she finds them funny even the 952nd time.
The Silver Line slows to the airport stop.
We all grab our suitcases and stand to depart the train. The woman places her Kindle in her bag with such care that I almost wondered if the Kindle could be the child she never got to have.
I look around at the people and wonder why no one wished anyone Happy Memorial Day Weekend. And why no one told that woman they liked her Harry Potter scarf. Even if it is 93 degrees out.