July 15, 2008 by Allen George
A Mind in Reverse
“I should be working”. That’s how it should start, he decides. It’s his second time around, second time traveling that same stretch of subway line. “I like taking the subway,” he’d once told E–; likes it because he can sit in a corner lazily seeing, focus thoughts on anything or nothing, be moved but not go anywhere . . . He can stare out the dirty scored windows at the passing light, light, then dark, dark, dark. Can let the rhythmic jostle of the cars strip away higher thought.
. . .
The six women have formed a section all their own in the middle of the car. One has her feet up, long black ruffled skirt down to her ankles. She picks at the strap of her blouse, takes a deep sniff. Three layers – who wears three layers on a muggy Saturday? The other five face away from her; they form a ragged square. All wear the same know-nothing, say-nothing expression. An “I’m alone on the subway, don’t you dare talk to me “ expression. He wonders if it was simply coincidence, them forming their little section that is – or if it were some unconscious desire for togetherness. The last one on has gaily colored sandals; its straps splash color – green, yellow, pink – on the grayness of the floor. Flaccid feet, but beautiful straps. Beautiful. He stands up to leave, a little early as usual. Looks at the woman looking at his camera looking at the door. Watches as she gives it the once-over: electrical tape on the front, no LCD to be seen, W-E-T . . . in dirty white on the lens. Her lips twitch into an almost smile. That smile – it’s what you give when you’ve discovered some sad, useless little secret. And as he walks haltingly across the platform he wonders what this woman thinks she knows about this no-name gimp with a no-name camera held in one lazy hand.
. . .
The sky is the gray they’d paint a battleship with, and about as thick as it too. It deadens sound. There’s none of that frenetic energy of the other downtown streets here. Cars move slower; people move slower; cyclists strain their way across the intersection. He’s been sitting on the broken wooden edge of a planter legs sprawled all the way out. How long has it been? Uncertain, he frowns. Hasn’t kept track of time, really – been letting the movement of the cars, people and streetcars ebb and flow all over him. Sneaky Dee’s skull glows at him from across the streets, teeth set in a picket-fence grin. How long has he been sitting here again? Later, on the streetcar, watching through the window as the orange “BECK” on the taxi’s roof yoyos back and forth, he wishes he could ride this line forever.