I stand and await my silver chariot. I step to the edge of the platform and peak down the tunnel.
I love the way you feel under my feet.
The bumps & grooves a welcomed change to the all too familiar flat concrete that plasters this city.
I scrape the soles of my feet on the surface & indulge in the tingling vibrations that run up my shin.
Curves in all the right places,
teetering on the edge of danger.
Standing here keeps me cautious and alert.
Please stand back from the platform edge. Especially when trains are entering and leaving the station.
This yellow express strip always ensures me a clear lane when I'm late, and rewards me with a cool gust of air that embodies a space closer to my destination. Oh you yellow lumps, you spoil me so.
Still no train.
I step back and quickly pull out my phone, attempting to use the time to organize my digital life. Enveloped in my task at hand, I was completely unaware I was standing at a thin space in the platform leaving little room for others to get around me. A quick jab to my midsection propels me back to my earth.
I feel violated.
I look to the left and a woman in a wheelchair looks at me with here rigid, bony pointer finger extended and ready to give my mid section another jab.
"MOVE OUTTA THE WAY", she shrieks.
I quickly jump to the side and she guides her electric wheel chair past glaring back at me just over the small American flag duct taped to the chair handle. The sensation of being jabbed in my side fat by an angry, disheveled woman disintegrating into a wheelchair left me with a bevy of confusing emotions.
It's odd that something so random and harmless quickly spurred such an uncomfortable feeling. My demeanor immediately changed when I realized what I was experiencing.
I can still hear the whirrrrr of the gears as the chair struggled to go on.
The train finally pulls into the station. The doors open and a throng of humans pour out onto the platform. After the last straggler funnels out, I step in and wait for the doors to close.
Heavy lids hide the eyes of the 9 to 5 warriors
CONCEDING TO EXHAUSTION.
THIS WAR WAS OVER YEARS AGO.
WARM AMBER LIGHT SHOOTs THROUGH THE SUBWAY CAR WINDOWS AS WE ASCEND FROM THE DARKNESS OF THE EARTH AND CROSS THE HUDSON.
Heads dangle from loose necks bopping and swaying to the movement of the train. Closed eyes wince in pain as the suns' rising interrupts the train full of sleep deprived New Yorkers attempting to revisit their dreams once more before arriving upon the nightmare of Monday. Each individual blessed with another morning of existence would prefer to dive into eternal sleep. Fed up with the monotonous rhythm of the work force, but too content to create change.
Embrace. Endure. Suffer.
Life is wasted on the living.
Never cherishing what we have until it is taken from us.
This is Grand Street
A man stumbles on to the train and begins yelling,
CH-CH-CHA-CHA-CHAAAAAANGE?! THANK YA! THANK YA!"
A man seated to his left shakes his head as he reaches into his pocket:
"Man, It's too early to be this loud."
"I'm about to get me some food!", The man screams as he feebly leans over the seated man, supporting his weight with the subway poll. He sways back and forth as the generous man locates his cash.
"Here's a 20. Be grateful.
How many people give you 20 dollars? "
"Bep a depdep!" The man yells.
"Beep a deepdeep!" A little bit louder now.
"Boopp a dopdop !" A little bit louder now!
"Bap a dapadap."
The high screeches at the end of each syllable bounce around the metal box and leave a ringing in your ears. The man seated tries to calm him down, but after many failed attempts, puts on his headphones and closes his eyes. The addiction crippled man calms himself with a belly of laughter and makes his way down to the end of the train. He walks with a wobble caused by his weak knees. He plops down in a seat at the far end of the train . He leans over and rests his forearms on his thighs. He pulls on the bill of his hat, lowering the brim to cover his eyes. He strokes his beards and sways as the subway car rocks.
After a few moments, the man gets up, and flows back up the train car, practicing his best usher impersonation. Sliding foot to heel. Once within arms' reach, he grabs the subway pole and twirls, Wrapping his leg around the base, skidding his body downward. He smiles and moon walks past myself and his morning savior. His odor follows a few steps behind, forming sour milk faces on the patrons seated along the perimeter of the subway. He reaches the other end and let's out a roar of elation.
"Ha! - Ha ha! "
He makes his way back again.
This is a human. We are human. But this simple similarity is not enough to harbor a connection.
We all avoid it.
The mans existence makes some uncomfortable. Some wish the man did not exist in this moment - or any other for that matter. They wished their realities never collided. They wish this other human would just go away. I wished the man would just got away.
"Ha! Haha!", The man screams.
Maybe this guy gets it. And we're the fucking crazy ones. It's sure what he thinks. He's bought into the joke of existence. He rides the waves as they are tossed at him. And he laughs. He laughs even when it seems as though there's nothing to laugh about. The man is the happiest man on this train. He gives zero fucks, realizing that to give a fuck, A man must think. A man must understand his place in the world. A man must try to understand those around him. A man must do things he does not want to do. To make change. To back his ideals. To actually generously give a fuck.
I wish I felt alright keeping my fucks.
Hoarding my fucks.
Keeping those fucks stashed away within the depths of my being, slowly stirred to maintain a rolling boil of laughter.
"Ha !" The man screams. "Haha!"
He moonwalks down the train.
He laughs at me.
He laughs at you.
He laughs at himself.
He laughs at the world.
He laughs at existence,
as he eagerly awaits the punchline.
The train stops. I step off to make a transfer.
His feet were so swollen that the sneakers molded around them could not be removed. His hair formed a crown around a large bald spot at the top of his skull. Too tired to lift his feet, the man shuffled his way down the subway platform. An unbearable stench followed seconds behind him. A sour smell that brings tears to your eyes. The smell hung in my nostrils as I watched the man disappear at the far end of the platform.
That could be me.
I've done nothing to deserve the position I've landed in. And this man has done nothing to deserve such a difficult existence. Life is unfair. Life is unforgiving. We are not all given an equal chance. Some are doomed from the start. But, in order for our societal construct to exist, people will be sacrificed. Some people will not prosper. Some will suffer. Our goal as a society should be to limit this suffering. To close the gap. To swing the odds in every humans favor. But, instead, we stack the hands of the fortunate, forcing those who start at the bottom to gamble everything on unfavorable odds.
This car smells like ketchup.
Most meals included the tomato based condiment when I was younger, but the smell these days makes me sick.
A gaggle of teens sit across from me debating fast food menus.
"It's like six dollas cuz it's a meal."
"What the fuck is caesar salad anyway?!"
"You talkin' about salad dressing?"
"Staten Islands? Ranch motha fucka?!"
"Salad fuckin' dressing."
"Excuse me sir. Sir-"
I look up from my writing for a moment.
"Would you know the name of this common salad dressing? People put it on their salads. It's orange..."
"Uhhhh... I'm not sure. What does it taste like?"
(Smacking his lips) Shit. I don't know. You know - that orange dressing.."
"It tastes like an orange. Like citrus?"
"Nah. The color. The color is orange. You know-"
A large woman shouts from the other side of the train between bites of her Big Mac.
A wad of ground beef smacks the subway floor.
"See! I told you - Thousand Islands. Ain't know Staten Island Dressing. Bitch is always saying Staten Island."
'Thank you sir."
I smile and exit the train to make my necessary transfer.
This car is much quieter. Not a single soul dares to talk. Each set of ears plugged by a soundtrack of choice. I used to DJ every subway ride, hand selecting each track, carefully, attempting to control my emotions with song selection. But, one day I forgot my headphones, and my mistake opened my ears to all that I was missing.
When you take a moment to listen - really listen - You come to love the rhythm of the
of mass transit in motion.
Each choice of car dictates your entertainment for the evening. Sometimes I prefer to solo the foley track, taking time to digest each bump and sway.
Sssshhhhhhhh -> Babum, babum, badum -> Ssshhhhhh.
Then slowly fade in a soulful mo-town quartet with coin clanking down beat.
Other nights we bring the train noise under and ride the lines of an attempt at a philosophical conversation.
"So - The question is: Ultimately... Ultimately. The question is... Are people inherently good or evil?"
"But does that even matter? As long as they've made an honest effort? To have a larger sense of corporate awareness?"
"It's a starting point"
"We're all lost.. going uptown... Or was it downtown?"
"Does it even matter?"
"We'll all end up in the same place eventually. And who really knows if there really is an uptown or a downtown?"
He's been listening to the same song all his life.
eyes glossed over, staring into the distance as
lights whiz by.
Ba boom boom.
He bops his head
to the monotonous rhythm,
thin braids flopping side to side
as he feels the beat.
Ba boom boom.
A fly lands on the man's knee.
The harmless insect searches the
dry, barren landscape for any scrap of nourishment
Ba boom boom.
He lifts his hand to inspect the now idle insect
It's insides now on the outside.
A lone leg quivers to the rhythm.
Ba boom boom.
The man shrugs and wipes his hand
on the seat beside him.
He closes his eyes
and feels the music.
Ba boom boom.
This man will live a million fly lifetimes.
This man will take a million fly lifetimes.
This man will waste a million fly lifetimes.
Lights keep whizzing by.
Life keeps flying bye.
Who chose these speckled floors that cover every subway car?
Do the speckles have purpose?
Or did the person with the authority to choose subway car floors have an affinity for the aesthetic?
I really like sprinkles. Crumbs. Lint. Dandruff. Pretty much anything you could classify as a speck. I leave my lasting mark on this planet with speckled floors.
The more time I spend observing them, the more I approve of the decision. Identical patterns can get awfully boring. Too predictable. Lacking an unknown variable always makes things less appealing.
But these floors!
These speckled floors!
Arbitrarily placed paint chips on a solid background. The color free to choose where it prefers to rest. Now that is interesting. The lack of structure helps imperfections blend in. It's much harder to find a roach or street meat - or partly digested street meat, when you're less sure how the floor is supposed to continue...
Fuck! The man yells. He's dropped his beer. The tall boy bud heavy lay sideways on the speckled subway floor. The hoppy nectar chugs out of the cans' mouth. His liquid slowly starts sliding down the car with the motion of the train. A foamy dot leads the way, slowly picking up steam stopping a moment when the car jerks, then proceeding down its' line. The beer slowly passes by my feet. I wave and smile. Cheering it on. We enter the tunnel and take a small turn. The single lane sprouts branches out to the left, birthing new foamy leaders to pave their own way down the car. Some lines run out of steam and grab the caboose of a fellow rye river and follow the flow.
We raise our half empty cans to you, speckled floors.
Thanks for taking all our shit - Figurative & Literal.
Thanks for keeping us guessing.
Thanks for supporting us through those nauseating commutes - and hiding our mistakes when we lose it.
Thank you for being that unsung hero, fulfilling your purpose despite the many times you've been stepped on.
I'd have no ground to stand on.
A man on the train suddenly retreats into his gray polo like a turtle in a shell. His ear pokes through the neck hole. His red headphone cable hangs out where the two chest buttons rest. The man is obviously cold. Or looking for a better place to conduct a private inner monologue.
A man with aviator shades dressed in all white, slowly raises his hand to pick his nose. He extends his pointer finger, the only one available as the others cling onto an orange Gatorade. The Chinese tattoo on his forearm must read 'resilient'. His finger makes contact with his mucus cavern and his head slowly starts to lower itself. He removes his finger and bows his head, resting his elbows on his knees. This man is about to lose his lunch, it's just a matter of when.
Just when it looks as though the geyser is about the blow, he shoots his head up and begins shaking his Gatorade vigorously.
Shake it. Shake Shake it.
He removes his cool shades and bows his head again. Chin meats chest. His girlfriend puts in her headphones and throws on her shades. He lifts his head again and leans against her, quickly passing out. I can't see her eyes, but I can tell they are rolling. Fast asleep, his head dangles and bops to the sway of the subway. He shoots his head up again and murmurs, she pushes his weight away from her and grabs the bridge of her nose, as if to alleviate a headache. The man slowly raises his head to half mast and looks at the woman, grabbing her leg. She mumbles something and her life slowly starts to fade. She flips through photos on her Facebook feed as she slowly falls asleep. There's no captain to this ship and it seems as though they'll never reach their destination. The train pulls into Atlantic terminal. The man beings shouting, the end of every word trails off.
"This is the D?! We're at Broadway laffeyette?!"
Answering his own question, "Nah this is the R"
The woman snaps back at her inebriated co-pilot.
"53rd street! I said 53! "
"Yo! No need to yell. I just woke up."
The man kneels over again and stares at the speckled floor. The woman pushes him aside and stumbles toward the subway map.
"Excuse me" she says after shoving a few people out of the way with her eyes closed.
She leans over an elderly man and studies the map, supporting her weight with the pole to her left.
"I knew it." The man says to himself.
"I knew it. She don't know where we're going"
She murmurs a train stop and plops back down in her seat, closing her eyes and plugging in her ear buds.
This ship has no captain and no destination.
An angry mother smacks her crying child in the face.
"Gimme dat phone."
The child screams and gargles reaching for the phone. She shoves the phone in her purse.
"No mommy!" He screams.
"Let me get it! Noo mommmyy."
She ignores the child and scrolls through her news feed.
"Quiet", she tells the boy.
"I don't wanna!" he exclaims through his tears.
"Stop or I'm gonna call Grammy."
The child cries and pleads, pulling on her arm.
Her face lacks any expression as she tries to ween the tech-addicted child off his early dependency. We make our monsters young. Sticking screens in their faces to keep them quiet. Yet, surprised when they find solace in their digital reality, abandoning the world around them before they ever truly experience it. She contorts the child's arms in a knot.
"You're going to stay like this until you stop."
The boy screams louder and louder.
"No mommy ! Don't do that mommy. Let me go mommy!"
Tears pour down the child's face.
The boy is stubborn and his mother lost her patience two children before him.
FUCK THIS SHIT
A 7 foot man in gray sweats and a pin stripes Yankees jersey gets up from his seat and walks to the far corner of the car with his black grocery bag of undisclosed contents. Suddenly the sounds of trickling water echoes through the train. The man stands in the corner, bracing his weight with a single arm as he leans his head where the two walls of the car meet.
When you gotta go, you gotta go.
All I can do is laugh.
Others look over in disgust and whisper insults.
The man lets out a roar of relief and returns to his seat. Three stops later the trickling line moves dangerously close to my backpack. I lift it from the floor just in time.
When you gotta go. You gotta go.
We've stopped in a tunnel. My head is full of full of mucus.
I could write an endless list of all the despicable things I would do for a tissue. I've contemplated cupping my hands and relieving my stuffed sinuses, but relocating the nuisance from nose to palm, will only turn this temporary discomfort to a permanent persona.
Every child has tasted a booger, but only the foolish dug deep in a public setting, soon adopting a nickname they'd never quite shake. I always felt for Snotty Steve, but his taste for escargoo solidified a school career of torment, which reminds me to resist the urge to evacuate my nostrils at any means necessary.
If only I had worn sleeves.
One can quite effectively hide allergy symptoms in the creased cloth resting on the inside of the elbow, being mindful to avoid full arm extension.
Just one quick action can relieve me of my discomfort and assure me plenty of space for the rest of the ride, but I will live for eternity in the minds of strangers as
the guy that blew his nose in his hands,
forever filed away in memory banks beside
the guy who ripped one in the elevator
that dude who couldn't hold his liquor.
I will never see these people again, why do I care what they think?
Is social judgement the only thing keeping me civilized?
If I were alone, would I think twice?
I'm fed up with societal faux pas.
It's too hot for a shirt and my head is far too full for comfort.
I channel my inner Macgyver and quickly remove my newly found handkerchief from my body.
Bountiful Amounts of Air!
I've missed you so!
There's a shirtless guy pounding fried rice on this R train.
Utilizing his plastic fork like a shovel, he moves his chin close to the styrofoam container and heaves heaping mounds into his mouth. His takes large open mouth chews, looking around as he devours his lunch special. That's it. He throws the fork a top the rice and closes the white lid. Jaw hanging, he runs his tongue along his upper gum to catch any grains that may have hidden them selves in his lip. Moments later, he realizes the sodium has tricked his stomach. He cracks upon the lid and starts digging in again.
A woman gets on and sits down next to him. She uses her teeth to unwrap her one-handed lunch and dives into her falaffel. Sammy in the left, iPhone in the right. She chomps away as she snaps a sweet pic of fried chick to her digital audience, clamouring to know her midday meal choice.
The lunch bench chows down, as I get down.
Pfunk massaging my eardrums. What a wild band! Light years ahead of their time. One day we'll discover they really were aliens, gracious enough to ascend upon our planet and grace our tiny world with the funkiest tunes in the universe.