The Commute (Part 5)

I can never fall right to sleep on the train. It takes me a while, but once I’m comfortable I begin to doze. I never go into a deep sleep though; more a half-sleep. I wake every stop to ensure I don’t miss mine. I wrap the strap of my messenger bag around my arm and lodge one fist under my chin. I don’t try to do the whole head- balancing thing like some people do. If I did, I’d look just as absurd as they, the Head-Bobbers, do. You know- the people who fight sleep on the train, who will themselves awake by keeping their head level and straight. They want to play it off as though they aren’t sleeping. What eventually happens is the head begins to fall forward and is jerked upright, creating a bobbing effect. However much I love watching Head-Bobbers, I’d hate to be one. It’s humiliating. Especially when you bob so far forward it wakes you. You know what just happened and so does everyone around you, but nobody says a word. They just laugh to themselves.

Just as I am about to doze off I hear a gruff, raspy voice. “Hello everyone, my name is Homeless Ned. You can call me Ned or you can call me Homeless. I am sorry to disturb you, but I need help. I’m looking to eat a hot meal today. Anything you can help me with is much appreciated. Can anyone help me this morning?” A man in tattered, dusty layers of clothing shuffles down the subway car. He wears an aviator cap over his bushy hair and a large, flowing cape that sways around his broad shoulders with each of his steps. His shoes look three sizes too big and, as a result, he drags them instead of picking his feet up. His salt-and-pepper beard covers the entire lower part of his face and continues down his neck. He carries a large plastic cup from Burger King and shakes it rhythmically to get attention; the coins inside jingle-jangle. As he nears me, I panic.

What if he touches me? What if his cape brushes my leg? Yeah, it’s an awesome cape. I mean, I don’t have a cape. But still. What if he smells’ It was just my luck that I happened to sit right next to the door to the other car, the exact door which Ned will go through to begin his speech all over again to another group of passengers.

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