Monday, November 19, 2007

Train Tale

This morning I'm on the F train coming in to work. It's late-ish, about 10.30am and my car has only about 6 people in it. A butch-looking white lady opposite me sitting butchly reading her newspaper. A plump pretty black girl on her right, listening to her iPod. A few others scattered at either end.

I notice a guy coming to sit opposite me, mostly because he has a shaved head, and shaved heads catch my attention these days. I drop my eyes again fast because his head has a gash on the top which had been stitched crudely, as though done at home. This is unusual and you don't stare at unusual. You ignore it studiously. His skin is caramel coloured and the wound very black and jagged. Soon he pulls from his baggy corduroy pants an open can of beer and is sipping his breakfast having first checked, cartoonlike, for cops. Then he starts chatting to himself.

His beer finished he tosses his can in an arc to the far side of the car. Our heads follow it as though it's a ball at Wimbledon. Crash. We go back to our occupations, mine being staring at my finger nails. I am loaded down with a tube for my drawings plus two huge drawing pads, an umbrella and my messenger bag.

He gets up and shuffles to the end of the car and opens the door. Oh good, I think he's drunk, he's going to fall off the train and get squashed and we're going to be delayed (Ladies and Gennlemen, doo to wa sick passenger we are going to be de-layed. Yeah, Sick: Squashed. Can't they just say it? Due to a squashed passenger?]. But no, he changes his mind and comes back, chatting and laughing to himself. He has very white, even, nice teeth. He flips open his top right pocket in his plaid jacket and pulls out with some satisfaction...another beer, cracks it and drinks. We've arrived at a station and I think, Shame the poor people, they don't know yet there's a loony tune on board. It's always interesting to see how long it takes new passengers to cotton on to a situation, since no one is helpfully staring and pointing.

A young Asian guy in a hoodie sits beside him, iPodding away. The beer drinker starts gesticulating at his own reflection in the window opposite, getting mad, answering himself, taking more elaborate swigs and glaring at the Asian guy. Without raising his head Asian guy scoots over closer to the butch lady who very obligingly scoots nearer the black girl who scoots right into the corner so now they are like three pigeons on a branch with the bad ass pigeon right at the other end.

I'm beginning to wonder how fast he gets belligerent and whether I'm taking things too far by wondering if he's going to start messing with people. Behind my drawing pads, my tube, my bag and my umbrella, I'm pretty well padded. Now he starts yelling at his reflection. I wonder how hard he was hit on the head. My station arrives and I get up, load myself with stuff and walk to the doors further away from him, not wanting to stand right next to him. As the doors open I hear Miss! Miss! It's him him. Miss! I turn slightly, ready to whack him with the drawing tube. He's shuffling towards me at speed brandishing something.

You forgot your umbrella! he beams, holding it out to me.

Thank you, I mutter.

Have a nice day! he says.


  1. Hey Marie, groete from Downunder,

    Warren Vissie

  2. Mr Fish!!!!!!!!!!

    Slat my dood met 'n nat...

    Did Fran point you here?

    Send pictures of you and Downunder!

    Wow. Memories of days of yore.

  3. He's probably telling all his street friends how he dared talk to a mighty Amazon. Can't think of a better reason to sober up than running into you on a subway. Oops, did I just say that out loud? ;-)

  4. OK moegoe, where do I send to, or do I get your address from Fran (who did, indeed, point me here...)?


  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Hmm babe, you shouldn't write your email in plain text like that, too easy for spam bots to harvest it. At the very least write something like marieyviljoen (at) gmail (dot) com, and that's probably not even smart enough for some bots... :-)

  7. Hey Warren

    What Vince said.

    I deleted my comment with the address. Also the Profile top left on the blog has a link to my email.



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