Flash in the Pan
A Quarterly Posting at Tiny Lights
by Carol Howard
It's afternoon rush hour, a bit after 5:00 . The subway is packed, people standing shoulder to shoulder in the aisles. I'm one of the lucky few who are seated. A black man in faded jeans and an old army jacket stands sandwiched between the door and a throng of commuters at his back. The train stops at a station, but the doors won't open. Several minutes pass, and still no movement, of either door or train. The man leans forward, face to the window, his open mouth pressed flat against the glass, and begins to wail. A primal, primate sort of sound. A hooting, howling wordless plea for the doors to open. For a way out.
The door opens finally, and the man is gone. A few people on the train laugh nervously. I want to cry. To flee after him.
He is mentally or emotionally disturbed, no doubt. But maybe his is a sane response to a crazy situation. Maybe the rest of us are crazy. We congratulate ourselves on being more stable than that poor fellow. Why? Because we can keep our cool while jammed together like pickles in a jar? An underground pickle jar at that.
The subway does not make me feel sane. I've been riding it almost daily for three years now, but it still unnerves me. I stand at the station, waiting for the train to come take me home. First I feel its chill breath, the cold breeze that precedes its arrival. Then I see the glow on the tunnel wall, the first glimmer of headlights. I hear the rumble on the tracks. The train itself emerges from the tunnel and rushes toward me, slows to a stop and opens its maw, inviting me to enter. Some part of me cries out, NO, don't do it, run away. But I swallow my howl. I board the train, find a seat, and disappear into my book.
Bio Statement: Carol Howard is the author of Dolphin
Chronicles (Bantam Books, 1996). Her personal essays
have been published in Tiny Lights , ( www.tiny-lights.com/EssayContest/Contest2002winers.htm#turtle ; www.tiny-lights.com/Flashinthepan/flashtwo.htm#closet ); The
Philosophical Mother ( www.philosophicalmother.com/callmemama.html )
Today , and Readers' Digest . She is a
member of the Feckless WOE writing group.
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