On the Metro

You’re not supposed to make eye contact on the metro. If you and another passenger accidentally lock eyes, you must both look away immediately and pretend you did not see each other.

You must pretend that you are not trapped in a large metal casket full of bodies and breath, with odors too layered and ancient to name. People used to avoid each other by reading newspapers. Now they use phones.

I didn’t have a phone, certainly not an anachronistic newspaper. I wouldn’t even know where to find one. So instead I stared out the window. That worked until we went underground, and then the tinted glass became a mirror, and accidental eye contact was again possible.

There was a girl standing at the other end of the car. The glass caught such a perfect reflection of her shirt–its color, its pattern, even the wrinkles on it that hinted at the body underneath. The tunnel lights zoomed past, bisecting her reflection. For those brief moments when the rectangle of light cut through her, I felt as if she somehow was being cut in half and the white-gold light was her soul spilling out of her while she stood smiling, oblivious to her beauty and the tragedy I experienced every time the light passed, and it was not her spirit that I saw, just a dingy fixture illuminated by a fluorescent bulb passing through a reflection.

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