The subway car I got on after work this evening had a light out near the back, where I chose to stand.
As usual, I stand braced against the seats near the door. Rush hour being what it is, the car becomes more and more crowded. At Jay St. Metrotech, the doors open on the side next to me. People get off, people stream on. More people than should reasonably fit, as is the case.
A man jams himself onto the train with his back to me and the doors close. When they do, he turns inward and leans against the doors, holding onto the rail above my head for balance.
I've got my upper body angled away from him, but I find myself having to lean farther and farther away . He's got his arm further forward on the bar above my head than necessary, head down and titled towards me.
I can hear him breathing in my ear.
Slowly, subtly, his body turns more towards me. His right leg presses against both of mine, then shifts backwards to find the break between them. I shift back and away (as much as these cramped circumstances will allow) and do my best to turn my legs away from his.
He presses in again, fetid breath on my cheek and pressure warm on my thigh, turning always turning in towards me.
I should have said, "Get off me, man, this car ain't that fucking crowded!"
Lafayette passes and I grit my teeth.
Clinton-Washington blurs by and I force my right arm out, desperate for distance.
Franklin crawls past and I grunt, roll my shoulders, and shove as much as space will allow.
I can't lift my head to watch Nostrand roll in because his face is too close. By the time the doors finally open, I'm shaking (rage at him and me and the sickly stink of fear).
He steps off the car but not out of the way. Room to exit is still one person wide.
I shove my way out and off and away, elbowing him with all the lack of power I possess.
I shake all the way home.
I will have nightmares.
Gina hails from Chama, New Mexico. She’s a book loving, banjo playing, bar tending babe who now works at the Tri-State College of Acupuncture in NYC.