Miriam Feder home


Carole’s Loneliness

Under all the hustle and bustle and work and music and dances and people and sailors and all the hubbub that was New York—I was lonely. The loneliness was like a dull ache or hunger from too many thin soups. I would look, sidelong, at other girls on the subway as we went to work and went home at the end of the day. Not the groups of girls all talking and laughing—they had a bright cheerful life that seemed too easy. I figured they all went back to their mother’s houses where they got pot roast dinners and the radio played all evening. But the single silent ones, like me. On the morning train we were just waking. At 7:30 we were exhausted. In our tailored dresses and our white collars, we carefully minded that our stockings didn’t snag and our gloves didn’t slide away from one another. We never looked directly at the people who sat down next to us.

I thought all these girls must have that same core of loneliness I did, buried under the layers of wool and nylon. I could see it in the smudges of black liner gathered in on that little bulge beneath the outer corner of each eye on the ride home. Most of us were young; we didn’t have lines yet. Some did, the gals in their 30s who moved home to Mama after their husbands left for overseas. But we all had that little smudge, we all had a little outline of caked powder around the outside of our noses. Our cheeks had run out of any real color and the little circles of rouge stood out under the harsh lights. As the train jerked toward home our cheeks would flush again from wearing our coats in the train. Then we threw them back against the dark windy streets walking home.

We were beautiful, we were ripe, we were well put-together. We were hopelessly single, unhappy mistresses, or waiting for boyfriends who were far from home being shot at or playing around. We had mastered that New York style of invisibility. And we were lonely, buried in newspapers, cheap paperback books or fervent invisibility. Sometimes a girl let a sigh escape. It jolted the rest of us back on our guard.