The Gold Ribbon

While I love the concept of public transportation, and use it regularly, there are times when it’s not all its cracked up to be – like rush hour.

Working from home, I seldom experience the crush of people jammed onto a bus or subway car, and given that I’m subject to the occasional panic attack when I find myself in a crowded place and unable to easily get out, that’s probably a good thing.

Last Monday, I had to go uptown at evening rush hour. The streetcar ride was fine, and I managed a seat on the subway, but within a few stopped people were crammed in with no room to move. Directly in front of me were a pair of girls and a guy, talking about music and friends and school as young people do.

The one girl closest to me was a wearing a hounds tooth wool coat. Near the hem were a couple of threads and some lint, which I thought was odd, but not unusual. However when she shifted position, her left elbow ended up very close to my face and I was confronted with a piece of gold ribbon that was stuck to her sleeve.

It was narrow, only a centimetre wide, and probably only 4 or 5 centimeters long. A loose weave, almost mesh-like fabric, it reminded me of the gauzy stuff used to tie up fancy presents, or as a lanyard on which to hang a pendant. It shimmered in the light with a coppery undertone.

I watched it bob back and forth as the girl’s elbow bounced with the movement of the train. I wondered to myself how she came to have a bit of ribbon stuck to the elbow of her coat, even considered asking her outright. And I longed, with an intensity that frightened me, to reach up and pluck it off. Not because I wanted it necessarily, but because my brain was insistent that it should not be there, that the girl should not be wandering around the city with a bit of sewing notion stuck to her arm.

Then, before I had a chance to act, she was gone. I reached up as she stepped away, wanting to grab the bit of gold before it was out of my grasp, but she was off the train and away into the station, laughing with her friends, unaware of either my desire to grab the bit of treasure, or that she even possessed it.

I don’t know why I was so entranced by a little bit of fabric – maybe because it was so out of place, or maybe just because I’m one of those nit-pickers who don’t like to see others looking askew. I probably would have just thrown it away at the first trash can I came across. But some little part of me wanted that sparkly bit of ribbon – the crow in me that is attracted to anything pretty or shiny, no matter how useless it might be.