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Subway Journals: Part 7 by Ray Printer Friendly


Where does the time go?

Thinking my eyes are closed until I see my reflection in the window.

Two and a half dozen maniacs standing on the front lawn, howling at the moon, and the guy next to me smells like cough drops. I don't even want to know what I smell like, but it's a pretty good bet that nobody's ever going to make a soap-scent like it.

Frozen wind yanks the breath out of my chest with hostility, and slaps me in the face. It seems to be a rather bitter wind. Everywhere I touch, there's a spark.

Over trains, under trains, grinding engine sounds and screaming metal. Look at all the windows.

Passing the taxi cab cemetery, where the old cars go to die, and the air is a little colder.


The sun's bright, extra bright, like maybe it's trying to compensate for being so ineffectual. Bright sun, cold streets, people bundled in everything, they can barely move their arms. Christmas music dripping from the special seasonal-mounted public announcement bullhorns stuck to the telephone poles at each corner. You can almost make out the tune through the blaring car horns and shouting matches in the street. You walk by a storefront all covered with plastic banners screaming about how pretty soon will be the grand opening of a franchise sandwich shop. Tasty. It's right here where you hear a train pull up, you run.

If you bust full-speed and don't slow down for anything--no old people, no children, no couples having a romantic moment in the middle of everything--you can make it. Up the stairs, two, three at a time, and dive through closing doors, your heart's about to explode, your lungs feel like they've been coated with ice. You go three stops before your throat stops feeling like it's been given a broken-glass massage.

Today, though, it isn't one of those days. Today, you don't hear the train, and you walk up the steps like normal, which is still pretty quick. Lots of people on the platform, which is a good sign. If you get up and there's nobody waiting, that means you just missed the train. If there's a big crowd, it means there should be a train coming soon.

Except on Sundays. Big crowds on a Sunday mean the train is running about every twenty minutes or so, and extra slow. If you've just missed a train on a Sunday morning, you might as well call in late and get ready for a pretty good wait.

But it's not Sunday, and the crowd's a good thing, and the train that you hear rumbling up behind you as you walk down the platform, that's a good thing, too.

Every stop, if you watch, you can see people getting prepared for the next stop. They put away books, they wrap scarves, they pull on their gloves. They get off and others get on, and they pull off their gloves, and they unwrap scarves, they take out books.

I put away my little leather book, zip up my backpack, and get out at my stop. Early for work, and as much as I hate the corporate virus that is Starbucks, I sort of enjoy the coffee. Find myself a little round table and commence to scald every inch of my tongue. If you wait for it to cool off enough to drink, it's tomorrow. Don't look around, though, or you lose so much self-respect.

Khaki everywhere. People zombied-out or jacked up, like living, breathing, coffee-slurping before-and-after pictures. Watching the clock now, three minutes before you go to work, you'll smoke a cigarette on the way, ten minutes to change clothes and then next customer in line, please. Please. Please. I crave. I must help you solve your problem. I am customer service, next customer please. Please.

Entered By Tracie From Unknown
2011-03-31 02:13:40

This line is brillant! "You go three stops before your throat stops feeling like it's been given a broken-glass massage."

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