Thirsting for an open door, he wanders
the aisle, empty at this advanced hour
of blue laptop glare and sepia lighting.
Gentle snores, rustling newspapers, and
muted conversations roll with the motion
beating, lifelike, beneath his feet.
Gripping seat backs with both hands—
he does not want to land shamefaced in
a stranger’s lap—he makes his way toward
the rear of the car, hoping some careless
conductor foraging for unpunched tickets
may have left the door ajar.
Gone are the days, he tells himself, when
passengers lingered on outside platforms,
red-tipped cigarettes dangling from numb
fingers. Longing for a time he never knew,
he imagines people felt less encumbered
by rules intended to keep them safe, free
to choose their risks in pursuing the small
pleasures that smooth life’s rough edges.
No open door. Thirst unsated, he slumps
into an empty seat and writhes, impatient.
The night’s unbearable dreariness and the
tepid, musty air sparks a barely-discernible
panic deep in his gut, leaving little chance
of sleep, and the relief of dreams.
When at last he disembarks, he gulps the
cold wind blowing down the platform, and
squeezes his eyes in exaggerated blinks
to clear his vision.
Just then, above his left shoulder, a familiar
face brightens a tinted window in the next-
to-last car. He starts. His step stutters briefly,
but when, suddenly alert, he looks again,
the window is vacant.
Commuters gush from every door he might
use to reboard. His discomposure goes
unnoticed. Around him, intent on its single
goal, the crowd roils and surges, leaving
no choice but to surrender to its command
and be carried forward into the echoing,
(c) 2018, by Hannah Six