I like to get on subway cars toward the end of the train, either in front or in back. This is because the majority of turnstile entry points in subway stations are situated toward the center of the platform, and since people are generally too lazy to walk a hundred feet to avoid one another, the ends of trains are usually less crowded than the middle cars. I take a different train to work now, but this practice seems to be universally effective if your goal, like mine, is to avoid being crowded by people who smell bad and dress like circus clowns.
Today, however, I was crowded by a woman dressed like a circus clown. She was 4’10" and at least 225 naked, wearing a tube top and what people on Jamaica Avenue used to call “poom-poom shorts” back in the early 1990’s. It’s been a while since I’ve spent any time on Jamaica Avenue, so I don’t know if people still call them “poom-poom shorts,” but since my urban vocabulary was current until roughly about the time that Big Daddy Kane, De La Soul and Public Enemy were relevant, that’s how I’ll refer to them here in order to convince you I’m still “street.”
Her hair, cut short like a boy’s, was dyed orange, and she had Chinese characters and the name “LaTrice” tattooed in script into her rippling back fat. I say her back fat rippled because this particular subway line rides a little on the rough side, generating turbulence that passed from the floor to her feet, through her legs, and into the loose flesh spilling over the edges of the piece of pink neon elastic that barely concealed the rest of her. It rolled across her back in waves and made her arms jiggle from back to front. I thought this would be soothing, but it wasn’t, so I stopped staring at it.
I’m getting used to this new subway line now. The last two stops before you get to mine take precisely 200 pulses of my hand on whatever pole I’m holding. If you see me on the subway, and the muscles in my forearm are tensing every second or so and I’m staring at the ceiling, I’m tired of being on the subway and counting beats until I’m supposed to get off. When things get repetitive, like riding the same train to work every morning, I find ways to kill the time. Then I divide these by four to create the quarters of a football game. This way, when my count is below 50, I’m in the first quarter. If it’s above 150, I’m in the fourth quarter, and it’s time to get serious. Sometimes I even squeeze the pole with four of my five fingers to let myself know I’m in the homestretch and it’s time to make every play count. Or something like that. I do this maybe once a week. It’s fucking stupid, but so is the subway.
Sometimes I also count attractive women. I don’t leer at them or anything creepy like that. I just count them. If I see an attractive one reading, she counts as one-and-a-half, because women who read are better than women who don’t. In the morning, if there are four within visual range on my subway car, that’s a good score. If I see three, it’s somewhat less good, but still okay. Two can still be pleasant, but it’s certainly not as good as three or four, because you can’t swivel your head from girl to girl to girl to girl very easily, and sometimes you get caught. Of course, it’s okay to get caught, but since I wouldn’t want someone staring at me at 7 in the morning in a place as foul and unsanitary as the subway, I try to mind my internal play clock and move on. This system usually works.
It worked today, but I was still stuck two stories underground on a moving metal tube with the circus clown lady grinding her buttocks into my loins and leaning her exposed – and still rippling – back fat on my newly ordered, sale priced, yellow and blue striped Ralph Lauren shirt. I’ve bought some new clothes recently, but this was no consolation today, even though I’ve been very proud of myself for buying new clothes. It made me feel worse because I don’t like when I buy new things and have strangers – especially circus clowns of dubious cleanliness with excess back fat and orange hair – touch them. I can’t lie and say I wouldn’t wish this experience on anyone, because there are plenty of people I’d wish this experience on, but I’m not one of them.
Tomorrow – which will be today for you, since I write these posts the night before – I’m going out drinking with someone different. I will order Stella Artois because it’s strong beer, and I will do a lot of talking. Then I’ll go home.