I shuffle in with the heavy-coat-laden,
the cough-armed, the book-wielding, the cellphone-brandishing,
the suit-clad, the receding-pants-garbed,
into the white brightness, into the light.
Sound waves rebound off desperate ears
stricken by unrelenting blows of brash beats,
the hollow rhythms pervading rotten and audible about the enclosure,
a sad travesty of the private seclusive silence of headphones.
Most fiddle with personal belongings,
profiles fastened with a gaze intently encrusted upon personal matters,
perhaps out of genuine interest, perhaps ostentatiously,
but most certainly erecting a barrier, the barrier of “I’m-doing-this-what-are-you-doing.”
The barrier being then erected, the others, now cognizant of their exposure
promptly counterattack with a quirky interest in the colorful yet uncompromisingly bland show above,
a carnival of advertisements, basking dourly in sharp luminescence,
reciprocating no quantity of the interest accorded it,
and yet these vulnerables stare on,
don the mask of content, seemingly brimming with a world of personal activity.
The unfortunate stragglers peep forlornly about the room with their probing white orbs,
measuring the bystanders, the interlopers, the…
both pairs of orbs quickly change direction,
embarrassed by the encounter,
by the unacceptable suggestion of mutual solitude,
by the already belated fear of discovery,
by the fear of lighting ablaze the unwarranted fire of self-consciousness,
as if the train were not already choking in thick smoke.
The eccentric and turbulent ‘madmen’ are the winners of this odd game.
mumbling away, slurring profanities, they sink
deep into the bogs of their minds, reeking perhaps with detritus
yet nonetheless distant from the footstep of the wandering visitor,
safe from the reverberations of their own outlandishness,
yet producing a painfully dissonant and echoing resonance that suffuses the minds of all on the train,
a painfully dissonant and echoing resonance in the sundry domed, gaping cathedrals of all on the train,
as it speeds through the gray tide of the underground.
Perhaps this game is entirely a game of my own,
but we may all be playing along.
Morris Reeves, Age 16, Grade 11, The Dalton School, Gold Key