the relentless anxiety that pours in, wondering if this train will be mine as it is approaching the station. I size up everyone- boy appearing not to give a shit about anyone else, with skateboard. where will he put that skateboard? we won’t have space for it. man looking nervously important, with briefcase. he is worried about getting to work on time, I can tell. and he probably showered this morning. I’ll stick near him. woman holding child’s hand, using it as some sort of free pass to the front, pushing and prodding expectantly. I feel sympathetic while also wondering if there is some sort of child rental service for situations like this. I feel guilty for thinking that but also highly entertained. shit’s funny man. besides, on the subway platform we are all the same. we all deserve a spot and don’t deserve a spot. there are no rules here, no lines. I feel the thought creep into my head- I’ve been here the longest, they must know. I dismiss it just as quickly. no one cares. i don’t care.
an automated announcement dictates what the countdown clock tells us- 9 minutes until the next train. NINE MINUTES. it’s an eternity. I must get on the next train, the one that’s coming barreling down the tunnel and I don’t dare scoot back, risking my coveted spot on the edge. I realize if I had been blessed with my mother’s breasts I would likely be nicked. I’m momentarily grateful as the whoosh of wind hits me and i lean slightly into the other penguins standing upon the ledge, i don’t care, i won’t budge. I’m betting that the doors open exactly in front of me. I know if it’s just a few inches off I’ll be pushed back too far.
a muffled announcement tries to calm the mounting anxiety. “there is another train directly behind this train! do not try to get into this train! there will be another train approaching the station immediately behind it.” no there won’t be man, stop lying to us. we all saw the clock. we believe the clock. it’s nine minutes away and we will all be fired in that nine minutes and I am getting on THIS train.
the doors open and we all hold our breath and squeeze in. we grumble. we cling tighter to our items. it closes and we exhale, knees and stomachs and shoulders filling the gaps as we expand together. we choose silly things to hold on to for dear life. I am pinching an inch-wide sliver of plastic on the ceiling and have my chin nearly resting on my neighbor to steady myself. everyone smells of coffee and their own apartments, it’s familiar and invasive and someone is smelling you. you wonder how you smell to other people.
i make eye contact with someone 15 bodies and three feet away. we both exchange the exact same look that says,”this is fucking ridiculous and no one should have to stand this and there must be a better option and this is the most efficient public transit according to whom and I think that guy’s back hair just went in my nose and I don’t even want to go to work! and we live in the greatest fucking city in the entire fucking world.”
and then the train lurches to a stop and everyone collectively groans and the doors open and we spill out like bats from a cave and we all move intentionally and rapidly forward and up, ascending, together.