Chasing Trains


Dented metal doors slide shut to the sound of a droning buzzer. The train is lurching forward before I can locate an open stretch of handrail, letting me careen down the aisle for a few seat lengths before swinging Rhesus Monkey-like into a somewhat stationary position. The subway is crowded, but I catch sight of my friends in the piercing fluorescence at the far side of the car.

Impossibly soon, the train is stopping, breaks groaning and its passengers waggling forward and back. My friends are the first ones out the door and I'm left squeezing past shoulders in pursuit. As I stumble over the notorious gap, my eyes dart across a dozen bold-lettered signs in primary colors, their arrows jutting in every direction. I don't know how many subway lines could possibly connect here, but trains clatter and rumble all around. Tracks line up against tracks, with barely any platform to stand on. I can't tell if its day or night; everything glares like washed out film of desert sun.

Dammit: My friends are already boarding the connecting train 20 meters down across the crowd. I lunge towards the nearest door, the drone already stunning me. I just make the train, but now it's stopping again and I'm stepping out. This platform is right at track level, raising the burning lidded taillights of train cars looming overhead. I'm standing on the tracks now, the previous train pulling away with a dull clatter.

A conductor's bell crashes through my attention- I jerk my head up towards an oncoming train. Panic explodes through me. I move to spring away, but it feels like a track start from underwater blocks, slow and unreactive. The train scrapes my trailing heel as I dodge, just as I see that I've sidestepped onto another track. This next train bears down on me even faster, but somehow my molasses-hung arms hook the side and I swing precariously onto some outer ledge of the car. Back pressed desperately to the cold metal, I am yanked forward. A passing train barrels past in front of me - I have to turn my head to save my face. The train to which I cling screeches suddenly to a stop. I lose my grip and fall forward on to one hand. My knees bang the concrete of a platform. Somehow I am in the same labyrinthine station. Train after train plows in, its doors slam open and shut like razor eyelids before it clatters out of the station. My head swivels from sign to train to tracks to sign, my mind grasping for traction. I see the whip of a friend's jacket cuff, beckoning me onto another train, but too far to reach at underwater pace before buzzer doors slam and roll away. I spin from door to door, trains on both sides of a platform shrinking to barely fit me between the flashing metal walls. The slamming doors come one after the next -gaping, slamming, rolling - their buzzers sound back to back now overlapping 'til the dull drone becomes a solid constant whine, my head shaking back and forth from to train to train to train to train to train...

My head is rocking from ear to ear across my pillow in the dim light of my single dorm room. The mute blue grey of morning light across cream white walls and blue bedsheets diffuses in my blurred vision. I lurch forward, still dodging trains before I realize that I'm at Olin and it's impossibly early.


I sink back onto the down pillow with a deep sigh. I heard no alarm; it's not time to run, yet. One deep breath. I rub my feet between the warm sheets, nuzzle my pillow. Out of curiosity, my eyes wander down the length of my navy comforter to my clock radio. Its hard red digits glare through the greyness like the taillights of a subway. It is 8:55, and I have five minutes before a teleconference with senior management of a potential employer.

The impossibility of hesitation is startlingly clear. I roll forward out of bed. My knees bang the thin carpet of the bedroom floor. It feels like concrete, and I hear the closing doors begin to drone.

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