Friday, February 22, 2008

Bergen Street

Irrelephant has given us "tattoo" as the word of the day, along with a stunning piece of prose you owe it to yourself to go and read.



The Bergen Street stop at 3 a m smells like urine and perfume. Floor to ceiling locked mesh gates like the bars of a cell, padlocks the size of fists blocking off huge shadowed sections of the subway. Buzzing fluorescent lights high overhead. I am at one end of the platform, sobering, waiting for the crosstown G train. She is at the other, curled into her raincoat like a slinky.

First a breeze, kicking up newspapers, then a full-bore wind as the bright unblinking eye rounds the corner into view. Train coming. I move to the edge of the platform, eager for bed. She stands. And though the raincoat envelops her like a sheath her bare calf and ankle peek out from under the hem. A tattoo circles her ankle. A crown of thorns? A snake eating its tail?

The train lurches to a stop. Doors shudder open. Before entering the car I turn to look and she is looking back, straight back, feline eyes meeting my own. She smiles a canary smile. She does not enter the car.

I slip in just as the doors wheeze shut.

I look out the window. She is gone from the platform.

On the train?

No.

I look back into the shadows of the station and see her smiling from behind the locked mesh gates. The shuttered padlocks wink in the buzzing fluorescence. She slides into the darkness as the train pulls away. Still smiling.

The smile follows me home, into my dreams, into the next day and beyond.

I’ve seen her a few times since. Same feline eyes, same canary smile. She lives there, I think. On the subway platform. Perhaps a ghost. Perhaps an anonymous fragment of dream. Or perhaps real, merely lost, merely homeless, with an uncanny ability to navigate the recesses of this vast underground.

That tattoo around her ankle, though. I’ve looked more closely.

I’m pretty sure it is a chain.

12 comments:

Maggie said...

I vote ghost. Of course the last line just sunk it in. What a great image. The floating 'fragment of dream' living in chains.

Irrelephant said...

Aaah, damn! NICE! Eerie, with just that touch of sensuality that comes with the unknown, the promising. I've never lived in a city, never rode a subway but I'd like to think that if I ever did I could look out across that milling mass of bodies and see those eyes, that smile. Just once.

Sarah Sometimes said...

Lovely writing. Thanks for stopping by my place the other day. Oh, by the way, being hopeless about science, I don't really understand about the full moon rising at sunset and why that has to be so. Send me a link or something to explain it?

Mother of Invention said...

Nice piece! I love the floating- fleeting-ever-returning image and feeling you created. It's like I'd almost be looking for her the next time I take the subway.

And yes, Irrelephant outdid himself with an amazing piece.

Nancy Dancehall said...

ooooo....Anima Sola. Nice.

Nancy Dancehall said...

Yeah....turns the whole Anima Sola tatto on its head....

Jo said...

That was lovely, like passing through a smoke.

Mona Buonanotte said...

The last line felt like someone just punched me in the heart. Which is, of course, Fantastic! I loved your description of the empty subway, the mystery seeping through the exhaustion, the ghost. Wow. Stunning.

Clowncar said...

Right you are Maggie, it is a ghost. Although the idea of seeing a fragment of someone else's dream is kinda intriguing.

Irr, NYC is worth living in for the subways alone. You could mine that vein and get a lifetime of stories, without ever leaving the car. I think this has been said before, but I love New York. You should go sometime.

Sarah, thanks for returning the visit. And, the reason a full moon always rises as the sun is setting is because a full moon only happens when the sun is on the opposite side of the earth from the sun. So one sets just as the other rises. With you in between them! Magical.

Thanks Mom. Yeah, look for her on the subway. She's there, I assure you. And, yes, Irr's story rocks!

As much as I would like to take credit for that Anima Sola reference, I've never heard of it before. It fits perfectly, though. You Catholics. I may have to find me some religion just for the story ideas.

Jo, thanks. I was gong for a floaty, smokey, half-drunk sorta feel. Thanks for wandering by!

Mona, I'm not sure I should be proud of punching you in the heart, but I am. Kind words from the Queen Bee herself! My day is made.

Nancy Dancehall said...

It's a treasure trove, I tell ya.

Missed you at Irr's AGAIN his morning. *cough*

Clowncar said...

Sorry N-pants. Sounds like I missed a whopper. Next time, with bells on, I promise.

Eric Shonkwiler said...

Very good. Why the non-contracted "it is a chain?"