Monday, August 22, 2011

One Gets Off, One Gets On

I'm on the subway heading home during rush hour. The train is packed and I mean packed.  Sardine City.  Cheek to cheek.  Pervert "rubby-rubby"-Heaven.

The train pulls into the station. It’s outbound for Brooklyn. I notice a man standing on the platform backed by the milling mass of commuters. It is very hot. As the car doors open I am wondering how this fellow can stand it.  He is wearing a beaver hat, a black over coat, and has a beard with long curling side burns hanging from his temples like sweaty bed springs. 

Just then the stench of the station wafts in and like a breathing body, the car exhales a single person; ejected, discharged, popped like the head of a swollen pimple. I clutch the overhead pedestrian rail; press my back against a boney mass of elbows and knees. I am determined to hold my position. I will not be pushed out. 

And I watch him, this anemic looking man with the long side curls and top hat.  He is flitting back and forth now on the platform, dancing a flat-footed, side-step shuffle before the subway car entrance.  He is fiercely intent, his body coiled with the energy of a starving squirrel bent on darting into traffic for a acorn spotted on the pavement.  

Suddenly he charges.  My world goes silent as the slow motion sequence of a body hurled against a wall of suit and tie passengers unfolds.  His shoulder glances off a brief-case shielded rib cage.  Faces contort and redden.  His footing falters and he stumbles backward, but regains his balance and shakes off the defeat.  My ears are ringing.  Steel brakes screech as the uptown local grinds to a halt on the other side of the station. Fully recovered, he now swells and puffs like a mad bull.  With head down he runs at us again. I take an elbow in the stomach, but there is an elasticity to the crowd behind me.  Taunt muscles stretch and like a bow string, spring back and the man with the wide brim hat is again repelled.  

As I brace for another assault, a surge of adrenaline courses through my veins; my ears suddenly feel as if they have burst into flame.  With the pent up frustration of a thousand rush hour indignities, I snap out of my heat induced stupor and scream, "What the fuck are you doing you asshole, can't you see there isn't any room? 

The odd little man with the long black coat and scuffed leather shoes glances up and in a calm, heavily accented voice, counters my enraged obscenities with the clarity of logic.


As if this proclamation were uttered by God himself, the interlocked bodies part, the warning horn blares and the train doors grind shut behind the sweat-soaked back of one more passenger.

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