I can feel the air turning to ice as it leaves my mouth.
I’m standing under the heating lamps that line the subway, an island of warmth for waiting commuters.
An old Asian man stands to my right, so old. So old that his wrinkles have wrinkles, that he neck seems to sway with the wind like a branch of a tree, that the back of that neck is covered in cracks that I find myself pulling my eyes away from. Away from that map, the history. I don’t want to think about the lines becoming real cracks, one sharp push by the wind and the branch…the cradle will fall. I don’t want to think about it.
A young man stands behind me, headphones in, plugged into his white, pristine iPhone, hair precisely combed to one side, pea-coat and designer jeans. So young. So young, young enough to surprise me as we step into the train, and he puts his headphones aside and pulls out a book. His jeans match his shoes. So focused on his book. Now his phone. So young.
Busy, busy, busy. No time to look up and spare a smile, no good morning. Spend an hour sitting next to someone, and all you know is what type of phone they have. You know what color hair the woman in front of you has, and sometimes if it’s natural. Sometimes, in particularly loud phone calls you can even hear who slept with whom, political views, condolences, dates. But what’s their name? If you can’t say hello to me, why must I be privy to how you feel about him? Or her? Or what you wore for Halloween?
Hey, look, there’s something refreshing. A young woman with red-framed glasses, reading a book with a smile on her face, coffee in hand. She just laughed out loud! She’s not self-conscious, she shakes her head a little so her hair doesn’t block her vision, back to her book. Look, she is sharing her joy with us…
I think I’m the only one who noticed.
Just thought of an interesting image. Full moon, black, on a white background. Birds fly out of it, unfolding themselves from the black shape and dispersing. All that’s left is the crescent. But, we don’t know if it’s just a moon, or if the remaining birds are still sleeping. There are birds in flight suspended in the earrings of a girl who just sat down in front of me, on the train.
So young, long black lashes curl up toward the ceiling, practically at her eyebrows. Across from her, across the aisle, there is an old woman, with hair so white/yellow it looks like old parchment; she covers it with a plastic handkerchief in case of rain. She’s thinking about something, her mouth curves upwards gently. Those cheekbones. Prominent and proud. Her posture says otherwise, curling like the eyelashes across the aisle. But you can’t stay ramrod straight forever. Her eyes speak of forever. I try to catch her gaze and smile, but she is conforming to the culture of public transportation.
The young lady next to Miss Eyelashes looks like Maggie Gyllenhaal.
Across the train, almost at the opposite end of the car, there is a black woman, wearing a red and gold kerchief tied around her head. She is beautiful, but I think she’s forgotten. She’s looking at me, and I’m unsure if the disapproving expression on her face is directed at me and my waiting (and unsubtle observation), or if she is simply spacing.
I want to help the old woman walk off the train, to offer her my elbow and escort her to her destination. Maybe listen to stories about grand-kids or how all of the boys used to chase her.
A man has replaced her, sitting in the seat that she has just vacated. He’s wearing sunglasses, but it’s not sunny out. And now we’re underground. Why is he wearing sunglasses? Is he a secret agent? Or maybe it’s an eye infection. Hiding from other people’s gazes? Is he famous? Shy? Tired? Afraid of eye contact? Or maybe he just wants to watch everyone, like I do, and learn quietly, undiscovered.
Maybe I should wear sunglasses indoors.
I’m warm now. I don’t want to go outside. I’m not ready for the almost-winter that waits, although it’s certainly there and is looking for me. Back to internal chill, and watching my warmth be absorbed and frozen in the air in front of my mouth.