She shrinks herself in order to fit in between the two men sitting on each end of the subway bench. She folds herself expertly. You could almost fit two of her in the one space while each man is obliviously spreading themselves out. They don’t ever have to think about the space that they occupy, while for this woman, she is always making herself smaller in order to accommodate everyone else. She is versatile; she knows when to puff herself up and when to shrink. The two men on either side of her, with their legs spread wide and their elbows pointed out, only know how to be the size that they are. They haven’t had to learn how to morph themselves to fit into a space. They have been told to make the space fit around them. They haven’t been told to sit like a “lady” or had to constantly be aware of every male presence and how to escape a space should one of those males become a threat. The woman sits in this space constantly alert while the two men blissfully and naively can afford to tune out the world.
I hate when you go to England.
It takes so long for you to come back to me.
Your mum and dad must be excited though.
Yeah, they are.
It will be nice to see them.
I’m sorry, I know what my being gone does to you. Let’s go out tomorrow night before I leave.
I can’t, I have a deadline on Tuesday and I need to be there most of Monday to get it done.
Another night though.
(please hurry back to me)
She stands in front of you, just to your right, after sticking her arm in the closing subway doors and jumping into the train exclaiming “I really have to get to work.” You noticed her when she first came on. She is dressed in all black, taking off her sunglasses and pushing them onto the top of her head. She pulls her long auburn hair to one side as she starts to take off her coat. As other people get on and off at passing stops, she slowly is jostled to standing in front of you, just to your right. She shifts her weight into her left hip, bending her left knee in as she reaches up to hold the above head bar with her right hand. She is fully elongated in skin tight black cotton. She is beautiful. You look down at her shoes, black sneakered platform shoes. Your eyes trail up her legs, caught by her ass for a brief moment, then fix on the bobby pin clipped to the outside of her jeans pocket. You see the hem of a tank top under her sweater. You notice smudges on her sweater just above its hem. You see the tiny hole at the end of her sleeve. Your eyes continue up and notice the pucker of of a necklace just between her breasts. You see how the golden ends of her hair fade and morph into a light brown. You see the shimmer of lip gloss on her lips. You look up even more and she meets your eyes, and you hold contact for a blistering second. She is a real person, not a perfect image you could never hope to reach out to. She has flaws, she is reachable. Don’t elevate her on a pedestal and worship her meaninglessly, she is worth so much more than that. She is a collection of memories and experiences, all making her so much more than you could ever know.
The soup leapt out of his hands, spilling all down the end of the table and splashing onto the little woman who had only sat down moments before. She just stares at the offending mess that had encroached on her space and splattered on her coat. She huffs. She gruffs and frowns and makes short jabbed motions of disdain while the owner of the soup apologizes profusely and runs to get napkins. The friend of the soup owner sits, shifting his eyes from the woman visibly and audibly angry to the crowd his friend submerged into. He didn’t cause this, or is really a part in either of the two’s predicament, but he can’t escape. He knows the soup owner, so he can’t just leave. Yet he knows his words won’t make the woman feel better, and there are no useful actions he can take. So he sits one seat away from the muttering cursing woman, wishing he were almost anywhere but here. He is stuck, watching the aftermath of a train wreck and knowing he had nothing to do with it, that there is nothing he can do to help, and that he is still somehow accountable.
The girl sits at the counter, lightly chatting with the girl next to her who is spreading jam on her toast. They are from two different countries, two different backgrounds, yet somehow their life decisions have led them here to this moment.
They talk about light things, such as tea preferences, as well as slightly more in depth topics, such as why the first is vegetarian and an in a nutshell run down of her basic philosophy. Ultimately it doesn’t matter specifically what was discussed, but the feelings that they expressed and experienced.
That feeling that is at the core of all language and communication., the desire to be understood and to understand other people. No matter how it begins, all anyone wants is for their voice to be heard, for what they are saying to matter, to not just be hurtling through space alone yelling into a deaf void. We want to connect and be understood. Everything the girl does is an effort to find a kindred spirit.
The light came on in the apartment. It was dark and shady in the room. From the outside only shadows could be seen, moving across the grey shades, ghosts passing by on their way to the other side. She doesn’t think ghosts exist, but she like the literary image. She imagines what it would be like to be a ghost. Do they have consciousness? Do they have thoughts? Feelings? Memories? Do they love? Can they love? Do they age? How long do they continue to be?
She imagines a child ghost. No gender, no name, but an age. A small collection of experiences. A small range of emotions. All summed up into this one final moment. What happened to this kid to transition from personhood to ghosthood? How did this physical body cease to supply sufficient energy and sustenance for them to live? Was it an accident? Most likely, how would it not be an accident. Who would purposefully end the life of a child? Whose intention would that be?
A killers. Someone whose job it is to take children to the grave.
The daisy grew, slowly but surely, out of the ground. Many people loved it as a seed and took special care to help it grow to its full potential. Over the years it stood through storms and hot weather. It grew thorns to protect itself and long white petals full of personality. One day a person came by and was struck by this clever and witty flower. After growing bored with the daisy’s natural state, the person plucked it from the ground in order to keep admiring it whenever it suited them. The daisy was still strong, even when put in a jar of water, and tried to keep its petals intact. Several days went by of the person showing off this flower, never taking time to appreciate anything other than their own bragging rights. One day, the person was overcome with what they saw in one of the flower’s petals, and plucked it off for better display. Next they plucked some petals they weren’t particularly fond of and threw them into the trash. Other petals became painted over in order to better please the person, or plucked for more prominent display. Soon, the daisy was a mere silhouette of what it had once been. The flower knew this was happening, knew it would happen from the moment this person first took an interest. But the daisy did not want to stop the person, or leave. The shared energy between the two was too enticing. It was dangerous and exciting, a matter of two beautiful elements coming together to form a toxic bond. The daisy offered its petals with loving contempt, wanting to be the pawn for once.
Don’t ask me what I really mean
I am just a reflection
Of what you really want to see
So take what you want from me.
The woman sat on the bench, two pages from the New York Times open on her lap. A few strands of grey hair fell out of the low ponytail, framing her tan, aged face. She wears a black leather fanny pack around her waist. She is mostly uninteresting. Most people walk by her without registering her presence. She continues to read her newspaper. She turns the page over and she lets out a barely audible gasp and freezes briefly. She holds the newspaper closer to her face in order to better absorb the article. She traces the faces of the people in the picture just above the article. She traces the faces of the people in the picture just above the article, sets the paper down on her lap and stares blankly ahead, lost in her thoughts. She picks up the corner and starts to tear out the article. The edges are rough, parts of other articles being torn into in order to free this one. She gets it out, hold it up, and stares at it, like it’s her most prized possession. She gently folds the article and places it in her coat pocket. She continues to read the newspaper, now with a gap.