Eavesdropping is rude. I know this-but I forgot my headphones. So, for this hour train ride, I’ve sat, trying to study, but mesmerized by the candid conversation in front of me. Two 23 year olds, strangers, sat down, and exchanged the usual pleasantries.
They’re both headed to Fresno to see family for the holidays. They agree it’s a nice place, but don’t want to live there. He’s studying for his CPA, she just got a job in Oakland.
As the conversation went on, it grew more and more personal. They’re not hitting on each other-both are in relationships. He just bought a “right hand ring,” for his girlfriend. They’re from the same small town and started dating after college when they got reacquainted at a wedding.
“Are you going to propose soon?” She’s asks. He could not be more flustered-“ahh, I don’t know, not soon, she’s great..That’s just a long way away…”
“But you guys are moving in together!” She says, sounding half shocked, half totally getting where he’s coming from.
She’s been dating the same guy on and off for the past year-plus. “He’s got a lot of issues,” she said, and shares some of his deeply personal stories. She’s been there for him through everything. But she’s not sure how much longer she should stick around.
He listens, patiently, and asks her questions to understand more of the boyfriend’s perspective.
“I can’t believe I’m telling you this!” She says. “You’re a total stranger.”
He tells her to take care of herself, hold firm on what she cares about. And the he says, “I’m John,” and she replies, “I’m Mari, nice to meet you.”
As I started jotting this down, the conversation took an immensely more personal turn, as he divulged that he and his girlfriend are trying to figure out if she should freeze her eggs. I missed the context-he seems pretty young, I hope she’s ok. As my train arrived, I imagine the conversation became even more honest.
At a time when it’s become normal to zone out on your phone, it was incredibly refreshing to listen to two people get to know one another. And, while my eavesdropping was totally invasive, it was beautiful to listen to strangers supporting each other.
Just another reason to love traveling.
Photo from Amtrak’s Instagram