Monday, June 10, 2013

30 Days of Birthday: Day 10 - (More) Flash Fiction

This is yet another very short story I yanked out of my laptop and dusted off and put in the summertime rewrite bin, an eternal snapshot of my New York City life.  When I say that I should write a book, MPB says I already have -- I just have to organize all of it and give it a good edit. Now that I'm finding pieces like this, I'm starting to believe he's right.


                                                            TRAIN RIDE

Run for the train.

As you stand at the top of the stairs, you feel the blast of warm air, like the subway is gasping.  You start down the stairs and the whole world starts up the stairs, at you.  It is a tidal wave of people, an endless barrage of old people and baby strollers and small children being dragged around by the wrist that leaves you wedged against the wall, close enough to the train to see it leave you breathless.  The teller tries not to laugh at you and fails miserably.

Wait for the train.

Find yourself staring down that long dark empty tunnel as though you and everyone else on the platform staring with you were attempting to will the train to appear. Know that when you see those headlights, you and everyone around you, with your collective pacing and complaining and the tension that is bouncing around inside all of you, had something to do with it finally showing up. You tell yourself that you can keep this up all day.  And you do. 

Get on the train.

Every detail from every train ride melts into each other until one ride is indistinguishable from the next, and then somewhere in between switching to an express or catching the cross town shuttle, all of it becomes one long ride to nowhere.  You may not be wearing the same clothes but it’s the same train ride,day in and day out. The clean seats.  The screaming babies. The vomit.  The obnoxious tourists. The businessmen. The intimate conversations you didn’t want to hear. The foreign languages you don’t understand.  The walking sickness next to you dying and then in front of you begging gradually becomes the same gaunt homeless faces passing you by with the same story, bony arms outstretched for anything you’ve got, like death on holiday. By midday, you look up at someone in a cheap suit sitting across from you inhaling a gigantic hoagie absentmindedly and you realize you haven’t had anything to eat all day.

Your one constant is the book you are reading.  When you read, you are elsewhere.

Get off the local and transfer to the express line.

It’s an unspoken rule that everyone reads over everyone else’s shoulder.

You give your seat to a pregnant woman and glare at the guy next to you. More confirmation that chivalry is dead. You check that subway map next to the door, the one you think you know like the back of your hand, because you’re not sure which stop is yours. The tangled mass of train lines at the lower end of the city spangle the map like the back end of some wierdo’s psychedelic rainbow trip, As you lean down to get a closer look, the plumber in front of you readjusts politely.  You know that you just gave him something to wank off about later because your blouse fell open for a moment longer than it should have and he saw more than he was supposed to.  You sigh and let it go. 

You know that’s all the action you’re going to get for a long, long time.  For a moment, you are grateful to him for not smirking at you.  You look at him for a moment.  Older. Stocky.  Strong.  A touch of gray.  Pale watery blue eyes.  Filthy hard working hands, the kind you were raised to believe that a real man ought to have.  He looks Czech. No, you think to yourself.  Polish.  You are rewarded for your unfailing powers of observation when he pulls out a Polish newspaper from his back pocket. A moment passes.  You stand over him and lean in, pretending to read over his shoulder.  His friends who are sitting nearby stop talking and watch you.  As he attempts to turn a page, you stop him and pretend to finish a last paragraph, then indicate that yes, now he can turn the page. Everyone laughs. You laugh, too.  He offers you his seat. When you refuse, he insists.  Surprised and grateful, you take it. As he leaves, he pretends to give you his Polish newspaper.  You pretend to take it. You both laugh again and wave goodbye. You will never see him again.  You think to yourself, I love New York.  And you mean it.

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