subway

The People

Living in NY without a car, spending time on the subway is not a rare occurrence. No matter what, no matter how many times I’ve been on one, the subway is a surreal experience.
It’s a social experiment, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with nobody recording the results.
The experiment: squeeze as many people as you can into a small space, speed them through a hollow cavity in a world of concrete, and deliver them to their destinations. See what happens between each stop.
The doors open, the doors close. A blind man appears at the door at a stop, his cane swinging, “what number train is this?” He repeats it until in unison, the passengers seem to all suddenly hear him and respond “the three!”
The door closes.
A woman, strong boned and straight-faced, an orange hard hat on her back, suddenly catches sight of a friend across the car and soon they are giggling like school girls.
A woman, who could be assumed to be a social worker, or maybe a teacher, sits scribbling notes on a yellow notepad. Her shoes are practical, her socks warm, but her hair looks recently done.
A woman sits next to her, a ponytail pulled back, eyeing the scribbles on the notepad the way we all study those alongside us, perhaps bored, perhaps reminiscing of a former job, or hoping for a future one. Perhaps the handwriting reminds her of someone she loves.
A small boy, fresh-faced and friendly, too new to the world to be afraid of it, waves and smiles at the passengers around him, pulling smiles from even the most exhausted.
A fidget spinner suddenly falls from a teenage boy’s hands, an older businessman sees it and turns to his friend “I must remember to buy that for my kid.”
An object that suddenly reminds me where I am, the harsh sound of it hitting the subway floor, the amusing realization that everyone around me knows what it is and that we all know someone who owns it.
That tiny toy that will be a memory in a week brought me closer in a moment to all the people in that rocketing metal room than anything else did before.
I looked at them all, really looked at them, at the old woman rolling her rosary beads between her fingers, muttering a prayer, at the hipster grinning at his phone, at the tired eyed couple who made each other smile, at the homeless woman with yellow socks, dirty from the universes she had traveled, and I realized that all of their journeys had brought them to the same place mine had. Each of them had been put on earth for a reason, and each of them were just as precious as the next.
The subway ads are calling to us, telling us what books we need to read and which food to order for dinner.  The poetry on the wall prods my mind to think poetically, the people are all so real, the train is so full of people living.
A subway car is a hub of humanity, a place where nobody speaks to each other but everyone sees each other. We move over a seat, stand up to allow a more worthy person to sit, doors open, doors close, the crowd changes. We all avoid eye contact but when we open our eyes to see, that day’s social experiment is complete.

I Fall In Love On The Subway

To you:

I saw you on the subway.
I’ve always dreamed of being the kind of person who would go up to strangers on the subway
But
I’m not that kind of person
I don’t know how
But if I could
I’d say
I fell in love with you
And no, not in a romantic way
I don’t want to spend the rest of my life with you
I just want to know you.
I wonder at the furrow of your eyebrows
And what has you so worried
And why do you keep looking at your watch?
I hear while I speak it now
That I sound like someone you wouldn’t want to be alone in an ally with
But I promise I’m just curious
I want to know.
I want to know all people
I am fascinated by the people who share this world with me
I want to know.
What makes up your life
And why do you sit like that
Is it because your father taught you?
I don’t care where you are going
I care more about why you are going there
Is it a point on the map
Or have you been dreaming about this day
Are you on your way to your dreams fulfillment
Are you on the way home, filled with rejection
I want to know.
Do you feel like you are a hypocrisy
Do you go to therapy
Does the speed of the subway
Remind you of how life is speeding faster
Or is that just morbid me?
Someone once told me
Some people are just simple
Some people have no layers
What you see is who they are
And I have fought that statement all my life
Because
How can it be?
 What if that man across from you is the father you never knew
And although it’s improbable
It doesn’t mean that it’s impossible
And why live life inside the confines of probability
Oh look
You’re getting off the train
I’m already falling out of love with you
Not the real you
But the stranger I thought I knew.