Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Chronicles of a Fashion Girl: Chapter 15

On the Subway, Anything Goes

Literally anything.
"Attention everybody!"
Four young black men jump into a train.  They each have a wild look in their eyes, like they're about to do something major.  Something life-changing, mind-shifting.  A middle-aged white woman clutches her purse to her side, feigning as if she isn't terrified of their presence.  A family of German tourists hug their toddlers to their legs, darting their eyes around as if looking for the nearest escape on a moving subway.
"Don't worry, we're not going to shoot you!" one of the black men jokes.  Instead of soothing a single person, now everyone, even seasoned New Yorkers, tense up at the mention of the word "shoot."  The white woman leans forward on the balls of her feet, ready to flee at any moment.  You can see her mind moving, working, figuring out where she could possibly go.
"We just want to..." the second of the black men begins, allowing the third to finish off with, "Dance!"
A collective sigh of relief ripples through the subway crowd, unifying all walks of life.  Of course, we are instantly divided once again as the tourists shriek with delight, clap, pull out their phones to record the young ethnic boys doing the breakdance of their culture while the locals roll their eyes, bury their noses in their books, look out the window, do anything to act like they're not actually present.  Us locals know what's coming: the baseball caps, the empty soup cups, the grocery bags being shoved in your face, eager to be filled with loose change and bills.

"I'm four months pregnant with my third child," a middle-aged woman blares, fearlessly moving through the moving train with audacity that can't be safe for someone who's pregnant.  "The father has abandoned us and I have no means to provide for my growing family.  If you can spare a quarter, a dime, a nickel, a penny, it would help me."
She moves down the aisle, attempting to make eye contact with every last person on the train.  Not a single eye meets hers; it's the third time I've seen her on this uptown C train in the past week.

I place my heavy grocery bags between my feet, squeezing them still as the subway lurches to a stop. The train isn't air-conditioned and I'm one stop away from home; my arms are killing me and the humidity is making it hard to breathe.  I'm in the final stretch.
The doors whoosh open and an influx of people rush in, bringing in with them a horrific smell--the kind of smell that lets you know what someone ate for dinner last night.  The kind of smell that makes you want to pass them your doctor's card, get their digestive system checked out.  The kind of smell you can actually see because it's so strong: the most hideous of farts.  I immediately jerk my head straight into my armpit, knowing that even if I had forgotten to put on deodorant that morning, it would still be a hundred times better than what is currently circulating in the thick, soupy air.
Inching my eyeballs out over my bicep, I furiously glance around at those who just got on the train.  I zero in on a woman--very large in size, and a little too content with the current conditions.  She's smiling, checking her phone, not a care in the world.  That must be from all the hot air that just came bulleting out of her ass, I think ruefully.
A small middle-aged woman grips the same pole as me, also burying her head into her armpit.  There's a moment when our eyes meet and we both burst into laughter.
"Who would do this?" she cries out incredulously, struggling to speak through her deliriousness.
"That isn't going anywhere," I say back, shaking my head and being careful not to inhale through my nose.  "This fart is here to stay."
We continue to laugh, dabbing at our eyes but keeping our noses close to our pits.

I jump onto the train with bright eyes and a bushy tail, dressed head to toe in workout gear with a Nike drawstring backpack wrapped around my shoulders.  Let's do this, I think, pumping myself up for another early morning workout.  It's 4:34 a.m. and I've just got the late night local A-train, although for me it's just the start of my day.
I glance around, humored by the difference between myself and everyone else on the train.  A couple of grungy-looking men threaten to fall to the floor, dangling off the side of their seats in a deep sleep. A woman dressed in scrubs scoops bites of watermelon from a Ziplock bag into her mouth.
I zero in on a kid; he can't be older than thirteen.  I begin to wonder what he's doing on a subway by himself at 4:34 a.m. on a Wednesday.  Do his parents know about this?
He silently shoves Fritos from a bag into his mouth, keeping his eyes closed.  I can't tell if he's awake or asleep.  I continue to watch him rifle through a black grocery bag of goodies, unwrapping Fruit Roll-Ups, popping open a Gatorade, opening up a second bag of Fritos, never once opening his eyes to guide himself.  I watch him until I reach my stop and even then I almost miss it, watching him, mesmerized, wondering.

"Is Jasmine going to be there?" a burly blonde boy asks, sitting down in one of the last free seats, ignoring (either accidentally or on purpose) an elderly woman who was making her way to the same spot.
"She'll be there," blonde boy's friend answers from his post at the center pole, waggling his eyebrows.  A third boy laughs obnoxiously, college-frat-boy-esque, wiping his nose on the sleeve of his NYU shirt.
The blonde boy reaches into a bag between his feet, bringing to light a six-pack of Pap's Blue Ribbon. He pops one open, chugging it in about two gulps.  He belches loudly and rubs his stomach, unaware of anyone or anything else.  He continues to make his way through the six-pack during the fifteen minute ride, getting the update on Jasmine's whereabouts throughout.

I'd like to say I've seen it all, but I haven't.  I know there's plenty of bizarre, outlandish, ridiculous things that have occurred in New York City's underground that I haven't been present for.  I'll just say I've seen a lot, heard a lot, smelled a lot.
Heard a homeless man snoring as he cuddles up in his makeshift bed for the night aboard the Bronx bound D train.  Saw, heard, and smelled a group of middle-aged friends eating dinner out of cardboard takeout boxes, slurping up pasta and laughing with their mouths wide open.  Witnessed a toddler call the shots with his mother, telling her that even though she wants to run errands this weekend, that just won't do.  Instead, they'll be sleeping in and watching cartoons.  The worst part?  She's okay with that.
I've seen nerds in a stupor playing Pokemon Go, unaware of their surroundings.  I've seen countless people reading a wide variety of books, everything from self-help to the latest Stephen King.  I've seen tourists desperately trying to get cell service so they can figure out where they are, where they need to go, and if indeed they are on the correct train.  I've been solicited, slept on, assaulted with body odor, provided with the last free seat, and sung to.

I've experienced a lot.

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