The setting was the R train.
Well really the platform beforehand
but mostly on the train.
These are the things that happen when you aren’t around.
I have music on. New music that sounds like the old music
I used to listen to when I was younger.
And he starts talking to me. I can see him out of the corner of my eye.
The train doors have closed. I realize I should have sat down.
He was staring on the platform too. Like he doesn’t need to blink.
He wants to know what time it is.
I pull out my watch and tell him.
I go to put the earplugs back in but he starts talking.
I listen to my music coming out of them,
sounding high pitched and tinny and far away.
Like warm rain falling on metal.
He tells me that he lost his phone.
He might be late for work.
He speaks so softly I can barely hear him.
I nod. Bring the headphones close to my ear again.
But he’s still talking and I’m afraid of being rude.
He puts his hand up. He doesn’t touch me.
He asks me if I ever noticed that sometimes there isn’t enough time
I ask him if he ever noticed that there is too much time.
He says he doesn’t understand. How can there be too much time?
I bring the headphones back up to my ear.
A new song has started. I can hear that.
But he touches me.
Grabs my arm.
And I shake him off.
I tell him not to touch me.
He says something really quietly.
I wonder if it was an apology.
And I think to myself. This is what always happens when you aren’t around.
And you always wonder why.
And it makes me laugh. I know you could snap this guy in half.
I want to tell him that.
The guy across from me is watching this play out.
But he isn’t going to do anything.
He’s already made that decision.
I hate him for it. What a coward, I think.
I put my headphones on and turn my face away.
The guy walks by me, stops so he is right in front of me.
So I can’t ignore him if I tried.
Then he heads down the train. Takes a seat.
He gets off the stop before me.
And I feel bad.
Because that is the way these scenarios go.
Maybe he just wanted to talk about time.
Maybe he was just making conversation with a girl on the train.
I tell you this story later, and I watch your jaw tighten.
You ask again why this always happens when you aren’t around. It makes you mad.
You tell me if I ever see him again on the train, to point him out. I nod.
I think of the guy in the seat, the one who watched and didn’t say anything.
Why, you ask to no one.
Because you weren’t around, I tell you.
Because my friend got grabbed while jogging.
Because that is what happens all over this city, when people aren’t watching.
There are these kinds of stories everywhere, collected by the masses.
Some end like mine, some end badly.
But they all happen.
4 hours ago