Eduardo N. de valle
Smart card acting dumb, so starts Friday after five. Which is not to say that any of this perturbs me; I’m Superman-immune to such things — the gum-piebald concrete floors, echoing glazed tile walls, the cavernous redolence, metallic tang on the tongue, the rubbing parts of flesh — I just want to get to my apartment, it’s all.
Another swipe; still: No Go.
“Oooh, commm onnn.” The voice’s guttural, athirst, too familiar to bother. I don’t look back. Ignore it; it’s SOP below grade.
Reaching for the brushed stainless steel stile, thinking, perchance: malfunction. But no luck, it doesn’t turn. Swipe again.
“What the foh—” and now some brisk rustling, light grazing over my left ham, the gluteal cheek. Gazing at the mag-stripe I blow on it, give it a quick rub and try again.
As the train glides to a stop I see her through the glass, burgundy handbag strap over her padded shoulder, left arm hanging from a handstrap. I get on, stand five, maybe six gun-grey floor tiles away from her and grasp, full girth, a cloudy, lukewarm chrome handrail. Two bodies scurry in, reach up for the loops and fill in the space between us. On and in to the mouth of the tube, and out of the darkness a mirror: in the Emergency Exit windowpane I spy her again, retrieving a book; looks thin. She opens it, right thumb on the gutter, index purled on the spine, verso upright.
waft of cinnamon
scent — enough to
Even as I immerse myself in the goings-on of Zima (summer of ’53, naturally) I can still hear the colonnades of I-beams flying by and see, without looking, the glowing porticos of 18th, 23rd and 28th Street stations, her face on the smoky glass. Loads file in and pile on at 34th Street and Times Square; so packed it is I can’t hold my small book far enough in front of my eyeshot and postpone berry-picking with Zhenka. So I close it, fold it as if I had wings, holding it flat against my ribcage. There’re fingers hooked on the cleats of the ad band over the doors, full-spread palms holding on to the ceiling, a woman whose arms are twined around another’s by the waist: an appeased jowl on shoulder blades.
As usual the car train begins to decompress by 79th Street. At Cathedral Parkway someone who, at a glance, could very well be Woody Allen (but then again, what would he be doing in this olla podrida of rush-hour schnooks?) gets up and exits. The open spot on the plastic shell blue bench is flanked by a fifty-something whose head is a gleaming puddle of milk, and a cat of CC Sabathia proportions. I decide to stay put and, standing, do a 120 when, right there, behind the vee edges of a thin book and sitting in an empty bench I catch sight of her.
she looks at me
her eyes like