by Sojourner Walker

Part I

I am tired. The kind of tired where you can feel your eyelids sweat. And I'm anxious to be home and irritated that

I'm sitting on a cold hard bench waiting for the train on a Friday night around 8pm.

I am pretending to be engrossed in my book, in an attempt to ward off potential conversationalists. An older Spanish gentleman sits next to me. I give him a sideways glance to make sure he isn't a crazy and satisfied, continue performing my role as a serious and  intense bibliophile.

He wants to speak to me. I can feel it as he shifts in my direction, but I am busy performing.

"Is it religious, your book?" He finally asks with interest. I make eye contact and flash the cover.

"No, spiritual" is my vague response. My performance continues. He does not falter. He is intense and I feel his stare penetrating my skin.

"Put the book down" he orders rather abruptly and for some odd reason, I break character and obey. The book is
in my lap and I am staring into the eyes of a wild stranger.

He asks me to cup my hands together and I do.

"What do you see"  he asks. I consider my answer. I know it's a test. I don't want to come up empty.

"It's foggy." I say.  He is not fooled, I saw nothing and he knew it.

"Nothing" he chortles, "No offense, but nothing is there." I look at him blankly. I am hooked. I want more.

"You are a smart girl who looks for the truth" he adds. I couldn't disagree.

"In order to find the truth you must have a good teacher" he continues. I nod my head in agreement.
"How old are you? 19? 21?" I love this man. 

"27" I say.

"Ah, you act younger" he replies not at all phased and doesn't skip a beat.

"Are you a dancer, a writer, or a social worker?"

"A writer" I say half convincing myself after considering my options.

"Ah" he says with a glimmer in his eye.

The N train approaches.

"Is this your train?" he asks. I am confused. 

"No" is my reply.

"Well, I hope that I meet you again to tell you the rest." And with that he disappears into a crowd of coats.

Part II

There is not a chance that I can return to my performance. I stare blankly ahead, book still on my lap. I feel an inner warmth. My muscles are relaxed and I am actually aware of the ease of my breathing. It's a rich breath that comes from my diaphragm.

From crown to root, I'm tingling. I feel very much alive. No longer anxious or irritated.  I stare blankly ahead in my new Zen state. I am slightly aware of a flood of people descending the stairwell heading towards the platform. 
Once again someone sits next to me. I snap out of my trance. Anxiously, I look over to see who my new visitor is.

It's an attractive man. He's staring at me. He is intense. I'm slightly uncomfortable, perhaps he's crazy and is planning to attack me. I hear the rumbling of a train in the distance. I wonder if it will be mine. 

"It's the R" he says in a rich voice as if sensing my question. I look at him puzzled. What is happening.

"Is that your train" he asks. There is a knowing twinkle in his eye.

"Yes", I say hesitantly while thinking what a rarity it is to have had two inexplicable exchanges with strangers  in a row on a subway platform. I am confused. My face, despite myself breaks into a smile. He returns my smile. Immediately I reprimand myself, returning my expression to neutral, only crazy people smile at strangers in this city. 

My train pulls into the station. I get up.

"I could take it to 59th street and transfer, but the air is bad at 59th street. Should I stay here?" He asks hazily. I am confused.

"Yes" I reply hesitantly.

"Ok" He says flatly.

My legs are heavy. I get on the train just in time. It's not very crowded and I find a seat easily. On the cold plastic seat, I stare ahead dumbfounded.

I glance to the left and to the right, the intensity of the energy is gone. There are no more messengers, just the typical subway crowd.

Sojourner Walker is a freelance writer and teaches Writing to Sixth graders in Brooklyn, New York. Contact Sojourner

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