Yesterday, standing on the subway platform waiting for an uptown train, the sudden smell of oranges filled the station. I looked down at Eva who I was carrying in a sling. That, I said, is the smell of a stranger peeling an orange. We had passed deli tulips with honey bees and sidewalk cafes with coffee-sippers, and I had been whispering to her about each, but this new sensation was so unexpected, so out of the blue, that it caught me off guard.
Had we been at home, I would have shown her the orange and maybe pressed the cold of it against her skin, and then the smell would have been what naturally followed, but there in the semi-dark, looking down into the tunnel for the light of the 3-train, I was suddenly overcome. I turned back to the woman standing near us. She smiled down at Eva; I smiled at her orange.
When the train came, I found a seat for Eva and me, and on our long ride to the upper west-side where we'd eat heart-shaped cookies and laugh with friends, I tried to explain to her a little about strangers, how sometimes they surprise us, how you shouldn't--maybe--talk to them or take candy from them, but how smiling at them and smelling their oranges is perfectly fine, and maybe some candy-taking would be okay too, but by then, she was asleep, and she slept, rather soundlessly, until we were back above ground walking hat-less on the sunny side of the street. This, I said, is almost spring.