Three A-trains-in-the-direction-I’m-not-heading later and I begin to wonder how much time I’ve dumped into this platform. Hell is hot, but purgatory is pretty humid.
Four women headed back home, deep into Brooklyn on the Fulton Avenue Express. Three of them keep bags on their laps, one keeps her hands folded there instead. A different grouping of three rest their eyes (weary from the last Summer Monday of hard work, I imagine), one reads from her phone. A different set of three are wearing shoes or boots, the fourth one baring her toes in sandals. Three of them are middle-aged, only one is younger than me. I watch them all stand up at once, like a unit, and get off at Euclid.
A large man fidgets in his seat. “Large” doesn’t really cut it here. Frighteningly large, intimidatingly, bafflingly. I can handle myself in a fight situation, it stupidly makes me more comfortable among the city public, but there are some mythical creatures among us, like this man who could overwhelm by means of mass, a man too much to behold, much less manhandle. Fidgeting is unbecoming on a size like that, but he keeps doing it anyway. He also keeps glancing to the back of the car, behind me. I try to use the reflection in the window to see the angles behind my ears, see what might be making him so nervous. The reflection’s no use so I look over my shoulder and still nothing, the usual variety of post-10-pm-tired B Train riders. As the train pulls away from Broadway-Lafayette the big man stands, now shuffling from foot to foot, jingling his change, and giving even more intent stares to the back of the car. He was making me nervous before, but now I notice his own nervousness, like his stares to the back of the car are not out of curiousity, but born of fear. My own nervousness compounds with this. What am I missing? No one back there is even making a sound. The train stops at Grand Street and the man moves to the door but without urgency, still inspecting the car, waiting for something to happen. And I’m waiting too, for him to make some sort of drastic move that no one will be able to stop, waiting for him to break from his pause at the open door as the moment he’s been waiting for develops. He just stands there and stares and at the last instant exits the car, choosing to wait on the platform for the next train to come through. Something in this car didn’t agree with him. What did he see back there? The train is traveling now over the Manhattan Bridge, a ride that always feels lengthy and loping, as much as a train ride can. It’s one of those extraordinarily long stretches in the system, especially when you feel the aspect of being stuck, suspended. So who or what am I trapped in this car with as we head over the bridge? What in the hell am I in for?