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I spend a fair amount of time, 2-3 hours, every day walking and sitting alongside total strangers.  One of thousands of us - working people who commute from the outlying areas of Boston into it through various means.  Trains, buses, cabs, carpools.  And we all bring our stuff with us.  Backpacks filled with laptops, books, notepads, shoes, lunches, whatever we feel we need to have with us to get us through the next 8 to 10 hours. 
I've been noticing because I have to buy a new purse.  This is something that fills me with fear. It sounds ridiculous, I know, but women judge other women they see (not necessarily women they know) by two visible accessories, shoes and purses.  They can tell you so much about a woman Is she practical or exotic? Is she struggling to pay her bills or one of the lucky ones who doesn't even look at a price tag? Does she walk a long way or just strolling from her car to her office? Is she fashion conscious or does she wear what she likes without regard to fashion?  For example, I wear trek sandals when I'm walking on my commute.  Practical, comfortable, but relatively high price tag.  They will last more than one summer and my feet will be relatively free of calculus and bunions.  This you can tell because I get regular pedicures and my nails always look clean and neat. My feet tell you that I care about my comfort and that I walk a great deal.  I can afford fashionable shoes, but I'm more concerned about the health of my feet than fashion, at least with my fellow commuters. I carry a large satchel and a lunch bag.  It's not a designer brand so that tells you that I have to be careful with my money and I probably prefer to spend my money on experiences than things.  But my things are clean, neat and of good quality.  I want them to last. The size of my purse means I can carry my essentials, wallet, keys, phone, access badge, and my comforts, kindle, sweater and possibly a pair of shoes.  Most of us working women have a shoe collection under our desk at work.  It's just easier;
So here I am, practical, middle income, middle aged.  On the train I sit where I won't impede someone's comfort or exit from the train.  In the morning, I try for a window seat so I can sit there when we reach Boston, until the train is nearly empty.  Then I can start on my way without holding up someone who is in a rush, running to be absorbed in the crowd. I try to stay back, so I can walk at my own pace, behind the pack, watching the variety of backpacks and bags, sweaters and coats, boots and shoes that march in front of me.  Going home, if I'm on the aisle, I try to be learn if the person on the inside of the seat is getting off before or after me.  Again, try to simplify the process.  Salem is often the first stop, so I don't worry about it too much. 
Sometimes, I have to join the throng.  I don't get a seat where I can hold back and wait for my moment.  I have to move so that others can move.  Have to join the press for the door, the crosswalk, the walkway.  In these closer places, I see things that make me want to touch someone. A stray thread, a bit of pet hair, a tag sticking out of the neckline.  I just want to touch them and say - "I see you.  You are a human being.  And I think you'll appreciate this gesture."  I don't do it. I don't invade the space - impossible, invisible barrier we erect around ourselves.
But I long for someone to break the barrier.  For just a touch. To know...I"m still alive, still human, still inside here somewhere.  Just a touch.


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