On the F train home from work today, I noticed a woman sitting not far from me across the aisle. She was accompanied by two men about her age. There wasn’t enough room in the car for them to sit together, so all three of them were on separate pieces of seating.

I was trying to get a good look at the woman’s teeth, surreptitiously, as one does on the subway, distracted by the jagged and unaligned row in her lower jaw and the horse-like protrusion of the upper row. She was talking and making faces in conversation very freely, unashamed — and why shouldn’t she be? Still, I did have the word “snaggletooth” on my mind. Not a personal judgment, right? Just an observation. Just feeling lucky — or, rather, just being aware of her misfortune.

One of her friends, who was sitting nearer to me on my side of the car, gestured toward her, and she extended her foot toward him. He tied her shoe, and she lowered her foot again.

The old man directly across from me turned his head away from them. He had been watching them interact, smiling at the guy tying her shoe. I looked back at the two, and saw how they were looking at each other, how they spoke. Of course! They were a couple. The old man was on to it. And I was noticing the wrong thing completely all along. There was much more to say about the shoe-tying than about her crooked teeth.


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the untallied hours

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