The Deformed Man on the Train
by Julie McGuire
I moved carefully onto the subway. Seeing no empty seats, I planted my feet in a safe spot. Success; I had slipped onto the train without drawing attention to my deformity.
I stood near the doorway, and held onto a center pole. The door chime rang, which caused a rush through the doors. I braced myself, determined to stick to my spot.
“Idiots. Why can’t they wait for the next train?” muttered a young man seated in a handicapped spot.
I refrained from pointing out the purpose of handicapped seats. The doors closed. I felt a push and turned to glare at the offender. If she’d smiled, she would have been pretty.
“Move so that the rest of us can find a spot, jerk!” She said, not so attractive anymore.
My face reddened. I retorted, “Shall I sit on someone’s lap?” A woman seated close to me looked up from her book, alarmed. “Don’t worry,” I assured her, “I’m staying here.” The seated-woman nodded, relieved, and turned back to her book.
As we approached the next stop, I dug in my good leg and tightened my grip.
“Could you be any ruder? Just move.” Said the woman, downright ugly now.
“I can’t move an inch, lady. Why don’t you?” I said.
Passengers took sides.
One shouted at me, “Yeah man, just move.”
Another, coming to my defense, yelled, “Give the guy a break. There’s nowhere to go.”
I prepared to exit as gracefully as possible, at the next stop. I moved towards the door. At the sound of the chime, I exited, turned and waited to see the woman’s embarrassed face as she noticed my disability.
She didn’t look up. Then I saw she was pregnant. Horrified, I called, “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize…”
The doors closed, my words lost in the train’s roar.
Julie McGuire is a full-time office manager for a small law firm in Washington, D.C. She is a graduate student at George Mason University. She has published several poems, essays and short stories, and is working on her first novel. She lives in Virginia with her husband and their two sons.