Wednesday, July 23, 2008


He sat across from me on the train. He was facing in the direction of where the train was going. I was facing the direction of where we had been.

He looked to be in his late 50's or early 60's. Thin, tall, he still had a fair amount of hair on his head. He wore a proper light blue button down shirt, tan pants and sensible brown loafers. On his left ring finger was a plain gold band and on that wrist was a black sports watch. He sat next to the aisle and had completely taken over the seat next to him with his laptop, Blackberry, papers, newspaper and other items. He also wore an earpiece for phone calls.

During the first hour or so I tuned out the sounds of his phone conversations, either by listening to music or reading my book, or both. Then something caught my eye.

His wristwatch had moved up his arm to reveal three Gothic green letters spelling "Pam". These were not small letters but large enough to cross over the top of his left wrist.

I was transfixed. I would glimpse at his wrist whenever I could and wonder who was Pam. Why did he have her name tattooed on his wrist? He looked like the last person on earth to be sporting a visible tattoo, especially one that could pop out during meetings talking about the business strategies of well-known companies (which were the topics of his multiple and lengthy phone calls).

Was Pam a daughter? A wife? A lost love? Did he just love the cooking spray? I think such a drastic, permanent act is born from grief, or hope. Maybe she died and he wanted a permanent reminder that she really did exist. Maybe he promised to do this drastic act in order to prove something to a desperate person.

I went back to my book and after several pages looked up again to see the words but they were gone. Hidden behind the thick sports watch. Eventually the next station came and he got off the train.


Heather said...

People watching can be so entertaining to ourselves can't it?

"Did he just love the cooking spray?" too funny.

Jami said...

Pam is physically gone but he still carries her with him. She'll be around as long as his memory and his arm survive.

That's what I think, anyway.

cathouse teri said...

So tempting to just ask. But much more entertaining to ponder!

My son was dating a girl (first girflriend) and one day she started just ignoring him (rather than having the nerve to break up with him) and when he started calling her to see what was up, her mother said, "She died." He believed it and went through much grief, before discovering her mother was lying to get him to stop calling. It was then that he decided to have her name tattooed on his forearm. And believe me, it ain't under no watch!

Alex Elliot said...

That's so intriguing! I wonder how many people actually ask him about Pam.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure people ask... I wonder if PAM are his initials.

Jenn in Holland said...

Gorgeous, Allison. Just a gorgeous piece.

Brillig said...

Did he just love the cooking spray? HAHAHA.

I love that you watched him-- I love that you asked yourself the questions. I love that you care enough about a stranger to wonder.

What a fantastic piece!