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11 More Stops Till Main Street Station

subway station

Eleven more stops till Main Street Station.

There are plenty of open seats, but you choose to prop your hip against the railing and stand by the door. You feel safest when you’re near an exit.

The subway emerges onto a bridge crossing over a highway and you can see the city lights passing by in a blur and now you are thinking of the line 6 in Paris that passes over the Pont de Bir-Hakeim. It has the best view of the Eiffel Tower. No matter where you go in the world, all public transit is remarkably the same.

Eight more stops till Main Street Station.

You only went to the pub tonight to make a point (and a friend). You made neither. You’re so used to being a stranger in a foreign place that when a lady at the bar touched your shoulder, you assumed it was an accident and ignored her as you stared down at your phone. She tapped you again and said, “I figured I’d introduce myself,” and you were grateful for human contact intentionally aimed at you.

She said her name is “Ma-hees” but you have trouble pronouncing the French “r” so you just called her “Muh-rees.” She wears large, tortoise-shell eyeglasses, speaks five languages, and has just returned from Paris.

Four more stops till Main Street Station.

The guy sitting next to you on the previous train was eating fish and rice out of a glass container. The pungent smell stung your nostrils. Fish sauce. Your stomach growled, and you thought about asking him where he got the food because maybe it would be nice to start a conversation, especially since everyone else had their heads down to avoid the dreaded situation of accidental eye contact. But you didn’t say a thing.

Three more stops till Main Street Station.

When you get back to your neighborhood, you accidentally walk past your house because any house could be yours and it’s really all the same to you.

But your borrowed key fits the lock to this house, and when you turn the knob and push open the slate gray door, your host gets up from the couch and asks if you’re hungry.

She shuffles into the kitchen and uncovers a metal bowl of turkey, potatoes, and cauliflower she saved for you. You talk politics till 11 p.m. while she periodically peers through the window of the back door to see if the cat has come home yet.

Earlier today, your host came to your bedroom door and called your name.

“Are you hungry?” she asked. “You’ve been working all day. I thought you were starving in there.”

You got all defensive and told her how you went for a run earlier and then went to a cafe; you even told her the name so she’d know it was true. What you were really saying is, “I promise I’m normal.”

And when she asks if you’re hungry, she’s saying, “I care.”

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