“Excuse me.” That’s what I said to the couple blocking my passage from the turnstiles to the station at Park Street. They were just standing there, looking up at signs, their backs to me. “Oh, sorry,” he replied, in a British accent. I moved quickly past them, no eye contact, up and around the low barrier near the track, and I felt a few seconds of regret for not being nicer to them.
Down the middle stairs tiled red, into that basement that’s like a big grungy shower room — all those worn white tiles — to wait for the train to Kendall Square. It was 4:50pm, and I was leaving GLAD and heading back to MIT to get my car to pick up Grace at BSED. Three points of my life, in acronyms.
I felt neither haste nor leisure. People brushed by and pressed into each other. There was another middle-aged pair, a man and woman, chaperoning a bunch of teenage girls, some wearing Red Sox “merch,” as my kids call it. Was there a game today? Sometimes I eavesdrop on people, but this afternoon my spying tendencies were worn out.
Against the red tiles of one of those square pillars that hold the Green Line and all its trains up over the Red Line’s sublevel, a small man sat. His black guitar case was open in front of him. A music stand, adjusted low. An acoustic guitar, a high buttery voice, a Spanish song. “Noche … noche… noche,” was the only word of what he sang that I recognized. Another verse, full of the sound of longing but no words I knew, and then again, “Noche… noche… noche.”
I thought of taking out my phone and taking a picture, a video even, so that I would have a document to share with someone. And then I realized that what held me to the moment was that it would come and quickly go. Anticipating that its life was only minutes long, I soaked in all of it — his singing, the sound of words I didn’t know, the crush of tourists and fellow commuters, his smile when I put $2 in the guitar case, his gold-rimmed dark glasses removed when I got close up to him.
The moment would be gone, I knew, as soon as the train came. Which it did.