‘Love’ on the F Train
It was a majestic morning in Diamond Heights and my sweetheart was going to ride Muni to downtown with me. We walked holding hands to Castro and Market and decided to take the F because it was, well, more romantic. It would be ten times slower than hoping on underground, but this way we could stay together a little longer on those charming, rickety old wooden seats. We’d able to see the sun and watch the world go by. Obviously we had forgotten all about Civic Center and what riding Muni really means.
Therefore, innocently and blissfully we got on at the start of the F line and headed to the very back of the train. Little did we know that our lovebird strategy placed us in the best seats in the house to witness a spectacle of alcoholic love so deeply poetic and profound it changed the way we thought about love forever.
They got on together at Civic Center, of course. He was in front of her. His lumberjack shirt hung over his shoulders. He was yelling something about being a mad Irishman — although he didn’t have an accent. He did, however, have a slight slur that caused no hindrance to the booming power of his hoarse voice. He sat down on the seats directly in front of us. And before I could focus on the cosmos of follicles on his coarse gray dome, she came into view.
An older woman of indeterminable age, she wore her hair parted in the middle — a gray and crinkly vast expanse of hair that would surely have extended over onto our thin comfort zone were it not trapped by her Jansport backpack. To this backpack she had attached one of those large plastic thermal coffee mugs with a handle and a small resealable opening at the top.
As soon as she sat down, she freed the mug from the backpack and drank the remainder of its contents by throwing her head back at a 90-degree angle to capture every last drop. We were only a couple of feet back and I half expected her to make eye contact with me in an upside-down Exorcist move. But no, instead the two of them began to squabble about her medication, going through the contents of the backpack and sorting out the business of the day.
If I recall correctly, you couldn’t gather up a full set of teeth between them. But up to now, this is nothing unusual — it’s what happened next that moved me deeply. After a somewhat confused and spirited banter back and forth, they settled into a satisfied silence. These two knew each other well and a little yelling was a sign of intimacy and caring, completely normal, just like in large Italian families, only with alcohol in the mix, at nine in the morning.
Moments later, our Janis Joplin contender fell deep asleep, resting her head onto the back of the seat, facing the ceiling. He had been reading a newspaper and when finished, he folded it up and turned to look at her. I had not been able to take my eyes off them, and thought I saw a sweet and tender look in his eyes as he stared at her. Then, without much thought, he raised his hand toward her face and she screamed, bolting upright, mad as hell. He simply beamed, with a huge proud smile, holding up to her the object of his fascination and the evidence of the purity in his actions: one extremely long nose hair. Yes, plucked with his bare hands and she lay asleep.
Sometimes a little pain is the price you pay for true love. My own sweetheart stopped ridding Muni with me shortly after that day. He didn’t stick around long enough to catch any of my unwanted facial hairs in the morning sun. Maybe Muni romance is not something to aspire to after all.