I came here for a reason. Trying to focus in the dark but all I can see is the streetlights and I can hear this noise, this jumble of stumbling threats to my sanity spilling out into the streets from the bar across the road. I'm scanning the scene, a few people I know who base their days around scoring, slamming it and making the scene so everybody can see how boneless they get. And there she is, dripping off that washed up rockstar's arm like a broken chandelier. He's slurring some brag to a pack of well groomed fuck ups and she can hardly stand up. There are burn marks on her knee and I remember seeing how she got those from nodding off with a cigarette and she'd just wake up and laugh and nod off again like a drinking toy bird. She steps wrong and her ankle turns, heel breaks off and she's going down and this grey faced shag cut motherfuck just peels her hand off his arm like it's plagued and keeps on talking shit. She drops like somebody cut her strings and I'm off the wall like a shot, dodging cabs to get to her. I pull her up and she brushes off some blood and gravel and looks at me like I dropped a sofa on her dog. She's gone in a flash, hooked by her pet dirtbag and pulled down the street tottering like a broken toy. She looks over her shoulder at me a few times before he yanks her around the corner. I don't know if she remembered me. It was years ago.
There's just no good way to sum up all the times you thought about somebody into a sentence you can utter cleanly when you see them again. I feel my stomach caving in on itself and make my way to the train to let it rock me into complacency, get myself home. I hate the smell of the subway station, just the vapor of stress and trash and giving up. I let myself fall into the hard seat. The gangly dirty-blonde next to me is in a rumpled, gray business suit, sitting there like Tippi Hendren after the bird wave, her hair in messy snarls. She's so into chewing her fingers that she's flipping them this way and that to get better angles. Little wet chewing noises, the sound of her eating herself alive. I marvel at her reflection in the window opposite and everything else melts away. I look down at her sensible brown shoes, note scuff marks on one toe like she's been grinding it into concrete, and then steal a glance at her, sidelong. She chews for 6 stops, pauses to play a game of solitaire on her phone, resumes chewing for another 2 stops, then gets off the train, moving quickly, spry movements - out of the character I imagined her to be.
I'm just trying to imagine how many times she got sick and didn't know why when another woman gets on the train and takes her place. She slumps ugly, wrung out, like she gave up years ago. She reaches into this beaten up plaid rolling suitcase, takes out one of those probiotic yogurt cups and rips the filmy lid off, digs in a plastic spoon she's been holding the whole time and eats it like she's trying to set a record. Then she takes out another, four gulps this time. She crams the second cup into the first, goes for a third and does the same, four gulps. I fear for her gut flora. She takes out a sandwich - ham and cheese I think, on soft wheat bread. She wolfs it down. This is all in the space of three stops. I look up just before the doors are about to close. My stop. I get off the train just in time, the closing doors biting at my shoe. I follow three guys down the steps and through the turnstile, one in a natty suit - too sharp for business but carrying a slim leather briefcase - another in tracksuit with a gym bag. The third is a smug middle aged guy, face is telling me Eastern European but he never spoke to confirm that. His big belly and his gray haired chest was the one-two punch of god-I-hope-I-don't-age-like-that but his face is at once fierce and sad. Two guys have their ears plugged up with ear buds, each walking along in their own private kingdom. The third guy looked like he's been in his kingdom too long, but would never admit it in a million years.
Stuffing my hands into my jacket pocket, I tighten up and walk quicker, head down. I see a bunch of guys hanging out on a corner, yukking it up, pushing each other into the street like it's the greatest thing ever. They stop and size me up and I just look at 'em, wondering how many guys like that have fucked up girls like I've been seeing all night. These guys patently don't give a shit about anything, but every girl I've seen tonight has been worried or upset or getting leaned on too heavily by life. As if on cue, the guys rip their attention away from deciding whether to kick my arse or not, and foist it onto a pair of young women, wolf-whistling, propositioning, then, when they've clearly failed to impress, insulting and mocking. I look back, in case it gets ugly - at least I can do something even if it's get in their way and take a beating, but the women are hunched together, moving quickly. The guys let them go, continuing the insults until their targets are out of sight.
I feel dismal when I make it all the way up the stairs, through my front door, just enough steam left to kick off my shoes and crawl onto my bed. The playback of the night roils through my head until my body wins the fight and switches me off.