I’ve sat behind her on the train for a few weeks now. I didn’t take that much notice in the beginning, but then I started to notice a pattern. And as a mathematician, I tend to notice patterns before I see the whole.
Every Monday she would wear her hair loose. She has long, shiny hair and when it hung loose every strand seemed to take on a life of its own, dancing to its own beat each time they caught the rays of the sun. I would catch myself wondering if her hair was naturally highlighted or from the bottle.
Every Tuesday she wore her hair in a ponytail. Her hair was thick and made the most beautiful pony that swung rhythmically from side to side in harmony with the train. She had three colored ribbons that she would tie around the pony. A ribbon around a pony is a youthful look and I wondered about her age. The ribbon she selected was color coded to match her shoes I noticed; black, white and red.
On Wednesdays she would wear her hair in a French roll. A rather elaborate looking hairstyle that is simpler to do than it looks. The French roll accentuates the nape of her neck and she looked taller than I had at first thought. I also noticed for the first time that she sat perfectly upright; a ballet dancer I thought.
On Thursdays she wore her hair in braids wrapped around her head. It looked very elaborate but because I sometimes style my daughter’s hair in the same way for ballet, I knew that it’s quite simple to do yourself. You make two bunches on the side of your head, plait them into braids and then pin them around your head until they overlap and then tuck. Not for the the first time, I wondered if these elaborate hairstyles were to make the most of hair that had not been washed in a week.
Every Friday she wore a hat. Some Fridays a beret would sit rather jauntily on her head, with a few hairs escaping out the sides and the back. Some Fridays she would wear a colorful scarf wrapped around her head, with a knot tied expertly to the side. Some Fridays she wore a beanie, with all of her hair somehow tucked neatly away. Now I was absolutely sure that she was hiding a bad hair day!
After a couple of weeks, I realized that I was not only noticing a pattern, but that I was noticing more and more about her; the way she sat, the way she tilted her head and the color of her clothing. I started to wonder more about her. Where did she go every day? What did she do? Was she married? Did she have children? But mostly I wondered what did she look like. I somehow never managed to get a seat close enough to see her face. I tried for a few days to get to see her face. I would try to get to the station earlier, I would try to jostle my way to the front, but somehow I never managed. And after another couple of weeks when I told my family about her and my attempts to see her, they laughed at me and called me a stalker.
It was then that it hit me. I was being completely irrational. I had fantasized about a complete stranger simply because of her hair habits. And yet I feel like I know her. My rational self returned and I made a decision there and then to let her continue to be a faceless stranger. And so the next day I chose to sit in a different coach and turned my thoughts to other things.