a person on the metro, six stops from their destination
leafing through a brochure titled How
To Get Rich Quick -
sighing in disgust,
"I was never allowed to go on the metro
when I was young," boasts the woman
sitting beside them, an accessory of
The Scene. a prop
(voice is loud and nasally, and the person - five stops - considers moving)
quick smile, polite:
which means, go away. or, at the very least, don't talk quite
a softcover Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary is under the seat, discarded,
Sharpie skidding through it (four stops) at every jolt
of the train.
this is normal, all trains are jerky sometimes, and the loud woman
expresses her concerns.
an old man, older than both people,
older than anything really - coughs.
the person frowns, but quietly, so
the woman and man won't notice.
(they are well-practiced in the art of subtlety)
three stops. the woman leaves
but the smell lingers
and the dictionary, having slid back
one or two rows for effect
a flock of tourists board. kids in the seats
parents hanging tiredly to safety holds
(be still be quiet keep your hands to yourself, mandy
a little boy of six clinging to the person's jacket with
sticky warm fingers)
two stops, and the boy asks why they look so sad.
what they're reading.
they have perfected the art of silence
but little boys don't understand silence.
the mother hovers in the background
sneaking ***** looks at the person,
wax smudged smile going crooked at the edges
the boy asks where they got their hair
he is unimpressed)
he is kicking the lonely dictionary
providing it with company,
or maybe unaware.
they leave, and the mother hisses something at them as they pass -
clutches the boy's arm.
the dictionary has been stuck on the word spectral for three days,
and the train hums to life.