Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Observations from a train

8:20am. The F train is running on time. I enter the train and the one half empty seat is occupied by a much older man who is sleeping and taking up most of the seat. I decide to stand. I can't quite tell if he is homeless, drunk or just down on his luck. With each passing stop, more people come on the train than leave. I watch with close eyes, everyone who enters eyeing that one empty seat. Nobody takes it. The old man adjusts himself and is leaning forward, holding his stomach, sleeping as if he was in pain or sick. The seat next to him was now free. I was tempted to sit, but kept standing.

More people entered the train, the fullness of the train manifested by a cornicopia of bodies. Bodies touching, breathing, feeling. Energies exchanged and glances taken in and given out. The women in high heels and the bored kids all eye the empty seat, but quickly look away definitively and decidely. I wonder why no one will sit next to him. I was so tempted to sit down just to prove something to myself, but then I thought he might be sick and I didn't want him to throw up on me. Everyone is standing, looking for a seat. No one moves. No one gets off in Brooklyn. People glance over to the seat, as if they are considering if they should take it. The answer is always no.

The old man sleeps in peace. His long, white beard frames his long wrinkly face. I want to see if he is ok. New Yorkers are accustomed to acting like they don't care. Nothing phases anyone anymore. I'm standing in front of Korean girl. She takes out a piece of gum. She starts chewing as if she has something to get out of her system. Her angry, rhythmic chewing alarms me. It is lound, unnatractive and pointed. Her jaw opens and closes rapidly and with each succession becomes slightly louder, until it becomes a monotonous crescendo.

I'm at my stop. I leave the old man and the gum chewing to everyone else. I'm walking up the stairs and there is a guy laying on his back at the base of the stairs. He looks like he could be dead, but I'm pretty sure he is just sleeping. At least that is what I tell myself. His shirt inches up to his chest, exposing parts of his stomach. I can't imagine such exhaustion. We all pass by as if nothing happens. I was more inclined to ask if he was ok, but if he was sleeping I didn't want to bother him. The trains take people from one place to another, but it is clear some people are stuck. Stuck in a moment, and we are all passing by with rapid motion, blurring any sense of calm.

But then again, it's just another day in New York City.

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