"Oh," I said, swaying to the left, "thought you were a gnome, I mean, you looked like a gnome when this tin can lurched - when the lights flashed."
Funny, right? She was way too tall to be a gnome, and all that long black hair, like a hundred tiny funeral processions hanging down her back - all the way to her boots, Ooooh! Scary black boots! Scary mascara! I could see it all in the reflection of the subway car window each time the lights dimmed and brightened; she was staring at herself, liking what she saw, too much, way too much, and then I said,
"You got what tattooed on your knuckles?"
And she said;
"It was supposed to say ALOHA!, a small kindness to myself, I am not kind enough to myself, so it was supposed to..." and she trailed off, shook a finger at her black lipsticked mouth.
"But it went wrong..." Then clucking like a duck she said, "And now when you read it backwards it says 'A-hole!'"
The not-gnome said into the dark spot in the window, "Why do you ask?"
"Well, it's that hair, you see."
"It grows," she said, "every time I smile, usually when I lie, usually at your expense."
"Huh? My expense? Did you say my expense?"
"Sorry," she smiled, "I mis-spoke."
We'll," I said as the subway car swung into West 4, "sorry for thinking you were a gnome."
"Oh, it's nothing," she smiled again, her hair visibly lengthened. And before I could ask another question the car shook, small fluorescent cracks and chrome lightning shone in the darkness and she was transformed once again into the gnome.
Just then another man, balding, lean and nervous, stepped up to the gnome and said, "Pardon me, didn't I know you once?"
And the not-gnome appeared again with a flash and said, "You must be mistaken."
In the dim light of the subway car I could see her long black hair suddenly grow just a bit, a tiny bit longer.