Brooklyn Bound Q
She enters, takes a seat on the crowded bench opposite him, meets his gaze distractedly, and then peers into her handbag.
He looks down and then across the car to the left and the right of her. He lets his eyes roam and return to settle upon her glossy paperback. Is he brave enough to read the title? Sure, he is. He’s interested in the book, in books, in what people are reading… Not in her.
She adjusts her glasses, scans the car quickly for another open seat as if to say, I don’t want your attention.
He averts his eyes as if to say: Don’t flatter yourself. Now, he’s interested in footwear. He smiles approvingly at the feet, of an old man in purple high-top sneakers as if to say, I have many interests. I value novelty, surprise, and risk.
She is amused by her book, lets out a sigh and briefly smiles as if to say, I don’t even know you’re here.
The train stops. Two men in suits depart and two teens, a girl and a boy with backpacks and hoodies and baggy black denims shuffle into the space between him and her and take hold of the overhead railings. The teens commence a conversation.
“I read it,” the boy says.
“All right. Who Nick?”
“He the one that telling the story.”
“Who Daisy then?
“She the white chick that the other one is all hot for.”
“All right. Who that other one and where he from?”
He looks up.
She looks up. She smiles briefly, as if to say, I remember the book. Or I remember high school. Or Doesn’t this seem ironic? These kids, in this time, speaking in those terms about that time.
He smiles too as if to say, Isn’t the subway a magnificent experience? Or Isn’t it better when we don’t hide from one another? As if to say, you and I – we – are of the same background, the same class. We understand each other.
The boy answers, “His name Jay. Just like my man, Jay Z.”
“You don’t know shit,” the girl says.
The train stops, and the teens depart.
Her eyes revisit her book, dart back to him, and back again to the pages in front of her.
He permits his smile to linger and allows his gaze to settle on her, in an unfocused way, as if to say, I’m at ease. I’m pleased. You’re safe. I’m interested.
She brushes her bangs with the back of her wrist as if to say, I know you’re watching. As if to say, I’m not uncomfortable. As if to say, I don’t know what to say. She closes her paperback, and with unusual care, she puts it back into her handbag. She is saying that her stop is next.
He bends to pull up his socks as if to say, I didn’t mean to embarrass you. Or Now you can look at me. Or This is my stop too. Maybe?
She stands, turns to face the front of the train, turns her hips towards him, and pulls down the hem of her skirt. She looks down and up and back to the bench where she had been sitting. Then she finally risks a glance in his direction as if to say: Are you going to follow me, you creep? Or It’s now or never. Or simply Goodbye.
He sets his hands on the bench beside him as if to steady himself for when the train slows down. Or perhaps to say, I’m getting up. Give me a sign, his face pleads. His eyes implore. Eight and a half million people here, and I won’t likely see you again. I’m not a creep, but…
The train comes to a full stop. People exit; people enter. A crackling sound comes, and then a weary voice fills the car. “Next stop is Times Square. This is a Q train bound for Brooklyn. Change here for the N, R, S, 1, 2, 3, and 7 trains. Stand clear of the closing doors.” As if to say, Stand clear. The doors are closing.
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