I sit in my seat, book in hand, earphones safely pushed in, music blaring, leaning as far as I can from anyone–eyes anywhere but on any particular face. Subway, one pm.
I spend much time on my own. It is my nature and it is also the pitfall of the writer’s life and those two things are the same. So, when I am out and about in the city, ripped away from my comfort zone, I have to fight the clammy hands, irregular pulse and all the beautiful symptoms of mild social phobia. Yet, I crave crowds, strangers, unfamiliar settings, incomprehensible conversations–those things feed me. They populate the ever changing landscape of my fertile mind. It is the contraction that I seek. I dislike most people, but I love them deeply.
Sitting yes, in the metro. Book in hand still.
A blond seats herself next to me. She smells like old cigarettes and the cheap version of Anais Anais. The dollar store kind. I recognize it because I sampled it last weekend. I read on. I am reading A gun for sale by Graham Greene. The song is Coming Home from Shilling. The blond touches my knee with her wrist. I try not to mind. She begins to fidget. I tone down my energy. I try to ease down in my seat. I want her to think I am friendly and not minding of her constant moving.
I look out the black window and see the tunnel racing by. I see my eyes as well. Brown and watching.
The blond is now stretching her arms, bending the elbows and then stretching again. She leans over to touch her ankles. Stretches again. Perhaps she is a dancer and I will see her on a poster one day. I smell her body odor when she lifts her arms. I try not to mind.
My stop is five minutes away. She is still stretching and bending and twisting. I turn the music on louder and read the same sentence for the third time.
Why is she moving so much? Am the cause of this discomfort? Am I sending her waves of disapproval? I shift–very very slowly–in my seat, slipping my leg closer the other. I am in pain from squeezing my thighs shut and away from hers. I am sealed into myself.
She is stretching more violently now. She is mumbling. I know it. I can’t hear it but out of the corner of my eye, I see her mouth–chapped lips and lined–moving.
And I turn my head ever so slightly to catch her face. It is hidden behind gigantic rip off Gucci eyeglasses and a pale blue scarf which loosely drips over her sweaty brow.
She sees me looking and my heart cramps up. I dart my eyes away. The tunnel is gone.
The blond moves but with more care.
Two more stops for me.
I stare at her hands. She won’t see me staring at her hands. They are weathered and her index and middle finger are stained yellow. They are not girl’s hands. They are boy’s hands.
The boy moves in his seat as he if he is speaking to me through jerks and spasms. Saying, “I am jonesing. I am riding the train to my next hit. I am trying not to come apart.”
My throat is tight. I want to touch his boy-girl hand and ask him to try to live without death.
For a moment, he is still.
I stand and gently move past him. I want to look at him.
He knows that I’ve seen everything.