There’s a couple across the aisle, both with the tense look of someone who hasn’t been in the city since their honeymoon in 1981. Every now and then he unfolds the map and looks at it, smiles awkwardly at no one and nothing at all, takes off his baseball hat and tries to smooth out what’s left of his hair, puts the hat back on again, takes it off again. She’s wearing a lilac top that all but blends into the seat — has camouflaged herself like a stressed chameleon. She, too, is smiling, possibly at the pug to my left, whose tongue is surprisingly long and dangles out of the corner of its mouth in a thirsty, melancholic way.
The pug’s human is the antipode of the man to my right: one shaggy, feet in battered sneakers crossed, the other sporting a Men’s Health-worthy stubble, leather shoes placed evenly on the floor.
Others join at various stations. A girl in a headscarf that matches her pants, legs and arms well-covered, walks in with her father and sits down next to him. A guy hauls in what has to be a bass, and it seems disproportionate, comical without the ampleness of the stage. A womanchild rests her head on the steel bars, eyes closed, a plate of fake gold beaming on the bag. It’s impossible to tell her age, or her origin, or anything else about her, except for how tired and alone she is.
When the train rushes out onto the bridge, the sky turns out to be the color of the older woman’s top, the color of the seats, but is quickly growing darker and out of sync with them. People around me aren’t paying attention to the compound monstrosity they are rattling into, so the train pierces it unnoticed and carries nosy foreigners, worn out immigrants, musicians, traditionalists, rural tourists, sharp dressers, dog owners straight into the city’s hot black womb, where they belong.