Traveling up to St. Nicholas terrace on the D train provides cheap amusement. I gaze over to see a tired slumped face in a corner chair finding respite from a long hard day. Behind the sleeping slump, two gay friends share polite conversation with flamboyant gestures. Across from me a kindle reader, with her glasses sitting comfortable at the edge of her nose, carries a faint smile on her face as if watching the scene unfold with pleasant ends. Suddenly the train stops at West 4th street. They all leave. A whole new crew climbs into the car.
A yawning NYU student replaces the kindle reader, and sits at the edge of his seat, with his glance upwards toward the advertisements making his way to the subway map to get his bearings. Directly to my left a large black man gives me a stern glance as our eyes meet. Black skin against the charcoal jacket, with Apple earphones dangling, creating thin lines that fall effortlessly within the creases of his jacket. A young homeboy sits to my right, stoically looking forward; just a gaze. No phone. No music screaming in his ears. Then, as if my stare moves him, he adjusts his backpack, seemingly to exit, but when the next stop comes, he maintains his gaze.
A survey of the car’s length reveals a near empty place. As the landscape of this subway ride is taken in, my thoughts immediately reflect on my own image of what people must see of me. In a moment, my self-conscious self faces their to quick glances, as my subjects become my mirror. My somber head overruns my rational heart with unrealistic expectations of what I should be. Looking for some friendly place to make a connection of what I am, rather than what I project others see in me. Where I see all the world neatly tucked into a judgmental box, they tuck me into a very similar box. My perceptions of their perceptions frighten me. I quickly look downward, and furiously type into my Iphone.
Another stop; another set of people step into the scene. Across from me, a young androgynous Asian, with Long thin black hair draped over a black suit, feverishly texts. To the left, a sad gaunt eyed middle age man with a goatee gazes into the phone as if looking for some answer to a pressing question; or possibly avoiding the discomfort of his last encounter, searching for some other world to be taken in by. To right corner opposite me, a young Latino man, covered in asian tattoos void of color, and wearing a Bronx style Yankees hat, boxes in his girlfriend, as if shielding her from any outside distractions. With his eyes he seeks to convince her of his love, flirting with humor hoping for a kiss. Large laughs from the girl bellow over the din of music in earphones and my own inner dialogue. She swoons with contralto guffaws. On my bench next to me another couple, or perhaps well behaved lovers, seem challenged by the girls flirtatious howls. They bury themselves in their earphones, with eyes glued to their video game.
All this visual contextualization does not exhaust the fear – rather it waxes poetry in hopes of reaching some different ground. My efforts to break the habit of circular thoughts that run fast throughout my blood are not quelled by the train rolling on. By now, all the seats are taken. There is a cacophony of sounds of which no single sound lives larger than the other, until all at once the Latino girl’s laugh roars above the fray as the train comes to a screeching halt.
Time to exit.