a morning

As the train approaches, a small flock of birds gathers overhead, then settles into two trees. On board, everyone is reading. I, however, am listening and looking. One woman reads Rumi. A man reads a book called Ontologies in Medicine. Two people read the Bible in languages other than English. The man in front of me works on a Sudoku puzzle. A woman toward the front begins a conversation on one of those annoying walkie-talkie phones. The man’s voice on the other end squawks abrasively into the train. The woman responds gleefully. “Hi, how are you? I am on the light rail and am broadcasting our conversation to everyone on the entire train! Isn’t that so exciting?” (Actually I can’t hear her because I am listening to Wilderness at high volume, but these are the words I enjoy putting into her mouth). The woman across from her doesn’t seem to think it’s that exciting. She begins with dirty looks each time a transmission comes through the phone. Then she rapidly advances to dirty looks and a shake of the head. After that, she looks around in frustration to see if anyone else is annoyed. Either no one else cares, or they are doing a damn good job of hiding it. The phone woman gets off at North Ave and a man and woman get on. The man is in a motorized wheelchair and is missing the lower half of his left leg. He holds a bottle of what looks like urine. Off the train at Lexington, crescendoes rushing in my ears, clouds obscuring the sun. Rain is coming. And I forgot my umbrella. I walk. Everyone is smoking. On the sidewalk a crushed tiny plastic cup erupted its contents in stages: ketchup smeared like blood, obscene on bone white concrete. Farther along are ankles so thin they could snap. A face turns with startling beauty. Inside, I am loath to pause this soundtrack, to disrupt this rhythm. But that was just the prelude.

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