Monday, April 18, 2011

Erosion Corrosion

    Sundays in the tube are different from every other day. The later it gets, the more different it gets. I slide my transfer into the machine-it beeps and allows me to pass through the turn-style. The beep echos past the caged store and bounces off the unmanned customer service booth. The escalator is off. I find myself lifting my feet awkwardly and anticipating moving stairs; though they are clearly not moving. As I laboriously descend the stationary staircase into the tube, I start pulling one of the clubs out of my golf bag. I pull it just a little bit further out of the bag so that it is at the ready. Ready for what?  It is eerily empty at the LaSalle stop. My intuition is telling me to have a club at the ready to defend myself from nobody. I am alone. I should have swung that club at my paranoia. I laugh at myself and tuck the club back into the bag.
   There are noises in the distance that I cannot identify. It does not sound of an approaching train. It is this difference that makes Sunday in the Subway different. I can hear. I can focus. I have the time to dissect the structure. I have time to make up the stories. I have time to imagine this at a different time. I look at the cracks dripping water or some other corrosive substance from the ceiling. The cracks are at regular intervals-about every sixteen feet. It is then I realize that it is built in sections. Sixteen foot sections, maybe. The cracks signify where two sections meet. A mason would have to fill those cracks with concrete and smooth it over. After the mud dries, a painter finishes the look. He rolls on a coat of brilliant white over the crack. The paint begins to bubble where the water has found a way through. The bubbles get heavy, big white water balloons-ready to pop. The water pushes the latex to its limits and gives way for a steady ceiling drip. This inevitability of water coming through the ceiling makes me reach for my golf clubs again. Again there was nothing to swing at. If the train doesn't come soon, I may have to abandoned this post in fear of the ceiling coming down.
    The train would undoubtedly change the subject. The moment it arrived, I would be in a different part of the story; no longer worried about the possibility of death via subway cave-in. But it hadn't arrived and I was torn. The taxi home is twelve dollars. This ride is already paid for but I could end up paying for this ride with my life. I'll just wait for the train. I look over the cracks again. There is evidence of a half-assed caulk and paint job. They were poorly composed cosmetic jobs in need of further attention. These walls are coming down.
    There is a rumbling in the distance. It is from the opposite direction. Not my train. Will anyone get off at this stop? I walk over to the other side of the platform to watch the train shake its way towards the station. Through the dark tube, I can see the yellow orange lamps hit the curve of the wall.  The lights strafe along the entry in sync with the rattling of the wheels. The far headlight comes into view followed by the near side. It slows, shakes, and humbles itself. The doors open. The train makes an automatic announcement warning that the doors will close. The doors close but before the train moves again, a man pulls on the emergency handle to open the doors and he gets off the train. His shoulders sit forward as his arms pull him to the ground. His legs are slightly bent and if there was a high stool underneath him he'd be sitting rather than standing. He stares at me. I inch a club from the bag. I think its a nine iron. He says something under his breath. I think he is talking to me but I'm not sure. He turns his head and faces the other set of tracks. He doesn't leave the station, which meant to me that he had nowhere to go. I don't really believe in coincidence, so the club comes further out of the bag. My train nears.
    The man who got off going one direction followed me unto the train that headed in the direction from whence he came. We sat looking at each other; his eyes less afraid than mine. He stared at me but not in confidence. It was empty stare; one that didn't realize that it was a stare. Next stop-Jackson. I'm moving to a recently vacated seat so I don't have to stare at this man. As soon as I got up, he started to speak to himself but out loud. He pointed at my seat and then motioned his finger in my direction but he didn't look at me. His words were incomprehensible. A young Cubs fan was next in the stare seat and got up to move away from this man-just as I had. It was at this moment that I realized that his stare, moments earlier, was not empty at all. When the kid got up to move away, the man rolled his eyes and dropped his head. He was hurt. It was a pain that I couldn't imagine. The next person to sit in the empty seat followed in suit and moved before the next stop and it sent the pain through him again like a whip against his back. I could see the agony in his face. I could see how lonely this man was; it would would only be a few more stops before he would get off and go the other direction again in hopes that people would tolerate his presence.
   I had a set of golf clubs on the train. The light hit the clubs and reflected off the plexiglass window and called attention to my minds eye. I looked at my reflection which was a contour drawing with obscure features. I wondered who I was today. I'm not really a golfer, but I am making logistical problems for myself by traveling all over the city via public transportation with a set of golf clubs. I shot at least twenty over par in a nine hole run. I am not a golfer. I suppose I am an opportunist. The opportunity I capitalized on this time was the chance to go spend money that I don't have; aggravating myself over my inability to send a little white ball where I'd like it to go. I forgot a book to read on the train so I stared at my reflection-wondering who I was, why I was, and where I was going. During this moment of reflection in my reflection, I knew why the man had stared at me. I was sitting on the same train with a set of golf clubs, with a destination, and with privilege. My reflection came into focus as we passed through the eroding tube.

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