Once it reaches 42nd St, your morning E train becomes an exercise in diplomacy and impinged personal space. The unlucky commuters on the platform give up and step back to wait for the next service, but a few always try to force their way into the sliding-door space. From your position in the middle of the jammed bodies, you watch the nearest doors clunk shut and wait to be on your way. Tense moments pass.
The doors grind open again; one of the other carriages can’t close its doors. The driver is urging something indistinct and frustrated on the tannoy. The doors clunk shut.
And open. The collective tension is palpable; there is no-one at whom anger can be directed. Clunk. Open. Clunk. Open, again.
From the driver, something that sounds like, “get your freakin’ body parts inside the train.” Then – clunk – the train finally pulls away and expressions ease.
You step into Billy’s Bakery to pick up some pineapple cake. As usual the hipster bakers outnumber the customers by five to one. As you take in the scene a woman barges past you in a thief’s dash for the door and disappears. A moment passes. You reconstruct her image in your mind: gaunt, weathered, one hand immediately to her mouth urgently cramming in chocolate cake, crumbs scattering. On the counter, the ‘free samples’ plate is now empty. The staff take little notice. One way to get a meal.
From the 38th floor of your skyscraper, only police sirens are audible, weaving their lament around the skyscrapers. A choir of cat-demons and banshees, fighting and wailing. The cops are bored of the standard scream and blip-bloop the siren switch to create their own mixes; amateur DJs. A creative outlet.
After the storms, you emerge from work into the muggy evening air on Lexington. The streets are awash with dead umbrellas; enormous segmented jellyfish. Stepping over and between their beached, dropleted, crumpled forms, through wraiths of subway steam.
On the crowded subway home the older woman on the other side of the steel pole is looking at the floor, blinking rapidly. You hold on, hand at shoulder level against the jolting of the train. Minutes pass. Jostling and rocking, you notice her hand clasping the pole below yours. After 53rd and 7th she leans, closer. Her eyes are now a forced nonchalance, directed unblinking at the window, as she slowly closes the gap and gently rests her cheek against the back of your hand.