Arts & Culture

Eternity

Warm air brushes across my knees and threatens to lift my skirt, so I hold it tightly in a fist and ground myself to the earth. It’s humid underground, and strands of my hair are sticking to my cheeks in a desperate clutch against the hot wind.

My train is 30 minutes away according to the LED sign to the right.

I still have to wait a bit, but the homeless man busking with his classical guitar in the corner will keep me company.

I lean against the column at my back, line the toes of my Vans up with the yellow line that’s supposed to keep people from leaping onto the tracks

, and turn my head towards the music. I count the holes where his teeth used to be. His fedora is on the cement floor, upside-down, with my special two dollar bill lying in the bottom, nestled in the moth-eaten fabric.

It’s busy down here, in the middle of the day, and no one wearing those designer clothes can spare a coin.

The people stream past me to try and catch their trains in patterns so swift, so unrelenting, that I’m a piece of driftwood stuck in a sandbank, attempting to hold tight while the water threatens to steal me away. It’s a blur of color before my eyes, and the guitar strums at my ears, making me want to detach from the sand and follow the strings of music. Join them all before it’s too late.

I should be a part of that vagueness but I’m not. I’m only me.

My train is 20 minutes away according to the LED sign to the right.

A boy with a shock of white-blond hair steps on my foot as his family brushes past in a wave of words from a foreign European language, and I wonder if he knows the English words “I’m sorry,” but either he’s not bilingual or he doesn’t care because I’m left leaning against that column, staring at the bright red color of his polo shirt as it disappears into the blur.

At the end of the tunnel, the arrival of a train is heralded by a horn blast and two yellow lights blinking in the darkness like all-seeing eyes. It’s not my train, so I only watch others follow others into the doors as if they’re being pulled by a string. Then it leaves and it’s so long that it whips past for what seems like forever, doors and windows blurring, blurring, blurring.

My train is 10 minutes away according to the LED sign to the right.

It’s quiet in the aftermath of the train. Most of the people are gone now or scattered to the sides of the wall. Waiting for their trains. Even the homeless man is taking a rest, placing his fedora back on his white-haired skull after pocketing the few dollars that he gleaned.  

It’s silent and peaceful, the air heavy and smelling like the city.

Quiet…

Then I’m not in the subway station anymore.

The smell of wet wheatgrass and light rain drift to my face, and I’m breathing it all in. I’m standing on top of an abandoned row of train tracks behind my friend’s house, balancing on the rusty metal with my arms spread wide. I lean down in a squat on the tracks to watch a thread of ants following each other across the pebbles and into the long grass on either side of me, going on and on and on and on. I wonder if they ever stop.

The wind waves through the trees bending their branches towards me until they brush against my shirt, snagging the fabric in strong fingers and threatening holes. But I don’t care, because my eyes have caught the horizon, the setting sun, the line of tracks that go on and on and on and on. I wonder if they ever stop.

The train stops.

I blink, disoriented and back in the underground.

Then I’m pushed into the train by people behind me and I’m just a part of the crowd. The blur of color. Or am I?

I am me, clutching the subway pole and watching the people around me, staring at the never-ending eyes all around, looking at maps, at phones, at each other, at space, at sleep. I am me, and they are them.

And I can’t help but want to shake them awake, because while we all have eternity placed in our hearts, I think I’m the only one who realizes it.

10 Comments

  1. This is so good. I can’t wait to see what happens next, Sarah! That last sentence was really powerful.

  2. Great job! I love this!!

  3. Ack this is so beautiful. <3

  4. So gorgeousssss <3!! I love your style. So in your type of column, will you continue this story or write more short deep thingies? lol Great job!

    • Thank you so much, Annalee! /re your question: this column will have a bunch of short writing sketches that will hopefully all have a different sort of vibe in each one. They won’t really be connected by anything other than the style of prose.

  5. ack. this is so beautiful and poignant, especially now that I’m riding the subway at least every-other day. thank you for sharing sarah!!!

    • Ahhh, yes, Gracie! The NY subway is a beast to navigate. Thanks so very much, and have the best experience in college.