I spend about 21 hours of my week on the New York City subway. Sometimes I write things when we’re stopped “because of train traffic ahead of us.” I’m not entirely sure what this entails, but considering how often I hear this phrase, I imagine my D train is almost constantly bumper to bumper with an N while an R honks from three trains back, not helping whatsoever.
Here are two poems that are not as clever as I would like them to be, as well as a very short story I want to dedicate to gross people who still manage to look cute on things like subways, which are only meant to be reserved for delicate smells, leg spreaders, and brave rats.
The D train hissed its way into Herald Square, and there was still no sight of Rajiv. Anna fidgeted, pulling down her sleeves over her hands with absent fingers. Her stomach churned, her body proclaiming her anxiety loudly, without permission. Her mind leapt into action to shut it up for good.
Please, it’s only been five weeks, Anna thought. So what if he stood her up? It wasn’t like they were married. There was no dog to fight over, no shelves to upend.
Nothingto get worked up about. Anna craned her neck to look as the train slid onto the tracks, and took a step behind the yellow line. We don’t even share friends. And thank God we didn’t meet at work. She snorted, imagining him at her library job, scanning cookbooks into computers that still coughed up floppy discs.
The train flew past her at the same time that two hands grabbed her by the waist. Anna was so surprised that she nearly stumbled headlong into the speeding train, but thankfully the hands tightened and pulled her back.
“Holy shit, Anna!” She spun around to see Rajiv. Raj! She hugged him in relief and pressed her cheek into his coat. She didn’t realize how relieved she was to see him until she let out a breath, unaware that she’d be holding it in for far too long. His cheeks were flushed from the cold and he had snow in his hair, poking out in waves from beneath his hat. His eyes usually shined with warmth, but now his pupils beamed black with fear as he clung to her. “God, I’m sorry, I was trying to do a spontaneous, romantic thing, not accidentally hurl my girlfriend into a Brooklyn bound D. Now a Manhattan bound D, maybe…”
“Shut up,” she gasped, still winded. It took a moment before she even realized he had said girlfriend. He seemed to realize too, and his smile slipped away nervously. She took his hand and squeezed it, and his smiled returned tenfold.
While they had been comforting each other in the aftermath of near manslaughter, the doors had opened and announced the stop. Rajiv and Anna both looked up right as the doors started to close again. He stuck his arm out immediately and crammed it in, forcing the doors open and inviting Anna to step inside. She ducked in and he followed, while a tired announcement hummed over the intercom, “Ladies and Gentleman, please do not hold the doors.”
The people inside were few and tired, eying them suspiciously. This was a train for lonely passengers making the trek home from work, and two twenty-somethings forcing doors open and clinging to each other in new love were not to be trusted. I’d hate myself too. Somehow she let herself revel in the moment, as they took two seats in the corner that were painted a deeply ugly orange. There was a lingering smell of spilled dim sum and an elderly man snored open-mouthed in the corner. But her hand was held gently, tethered to something good.