Jane Eyre (Charlotte Brontë)

I run up the escalator, because I can tell there's a train at the platform. The doors are open, so I jump the gap and sit down next to a woman of my age.

"Is this train going into town?" I ask her.

She peers at me over the edge of her book and nods.

"Great," I say, feeling lucky because I didn't look before I leapt.

"They only go in one direction from Greenbelt," she says. "This is the end of the line."

"Hey, I just read that book, too," I say. "What do you think?"

"I suppose it's okay," she says, slowly. "I just think it relies a bit too heavily on coincidence to move things forward."

"You don't think there are so many coincidences in real life, eh?" She shakes her head emphatically. "What about the fact that the man behind you is reading the same book?"

"Well, of --"

"Actually," interrupts the man in the seat behind us. "I'm not reading this book. I have already completed that exercise."

The doors open for the College Park station and a grumpy woman boards. I notice her because she's wearing an RIT sweatshirt. Folks often confuse RIT with my alma matter: RPI. She stands in the aisle, looking a little befuddled and rubbing her wrist. When the train jerks forward, she falls into the seat behind me. The man catches her.

"Sorry," she says. "I slipped on the ice on that platform, and now this--"

"Aww, isn't that sweet," I say and nudge the doubter next to me. "Just like the book; what a coincidence!"

"It's not like the book at all," she responds.

"Maybe they'll get married," I say.

"We can't get married," says RIT. "I'm already married."

I wink significantly at the woman next to me. She rolls her eyes.

"And we don't have an attic to lock him in," RIT continues. The man sitting next to her looks a little disappointed, if you ask me. "In fact, we can't even use the basement any more, now that the city's all up in arms." She arranges her stuff. "Now about the book: I was a little let-down. After reading that intro, I was sure Jane Eyre would be a firecracker for feminism. But in the end, this was a moralistic tale about not wanting what you don't deserve."

"But she has to find a way to stand on her own two feet, so she can be with Rochester as an equal," I put in.

"Hah. Classist trash. Look down on the Indian caste system, but ignore the humanity of your own servants (oh, here, hon: have five pounds). What she needs is for some man -- her rich uncle -- to die and give her money so she can be in the right class for marriage. Buh."

"Don't you think you're a little harsh considering the time period?" the doubter and I both ask at the same time.

"Still don't believe in coincidences?" I ask.

"Look," the doubter says, a little hotly in my opinion. "It's not a coincidence that the four of us have read the same book; we're in this book group. It's not a coincidence that we got onto the same train. We take this train every dang morning. In fact, we're all going to get off the train at Fort Totten because we all happen to need to transfer from the Green Line to the Red Line. But you'll be heading north, while the rest of us go into the city. These people behind us are not just sitting there hoping to get married, and I'm not sitting around waiting for some rich old uncle to die. So shut up about coincidences already."

"Ok. Ok," I say as the train pulls up to Fort Totten. "Sorry." We file off to the escalator and ascend. As we get to the second escalator, she tugs my coat.

"Hey, how is Great Uncle Leadbelly, anyway?" she wants to know.

"Oh, he's doing fine, dear cousin. He's doing fine."

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