I am on the last train out of Manhattan, easing my spine against against the softish comforts granted me. I take these comforts, one wired animal adorned in my uniform of pressed pants and brass-buttoned navy blue jacket - the governed appearance tools of the outward-facing trade.
I have been fed and I have been allotted my pleasures, so there is a warm satiation easing through me and through the hum of the air conditioning fans and the white lights of the train car. Time creeps on like an unwanted insect, an ancient thing with hidden adornments under its wings.
Announcements rattle through the overhead speakers on towns we will stop in. They are abstractions, one after the other, named likely by violent thieves many years before there were the comforts of electric trains. There will not be any announcements for the towns we pass through. They will instead be black and indistinct shapes of blurred populations passed speedily and without introduction.
There is a well-dressed man sitting across from me. He has a caramel leather bag. His hair is well placed upon his head, even this late in the early tick of the new morning.
His seat faces mine in that odd social clumping peculiar to commuter trains, and our knees are held apart - one pair from the other - as is the public social order.
He twitches awkwardly in that misfired electric slip toward sleep, and I am suddenly confident that he will miss his stop. I tap his leg. And he comes back to consciousness in that wary New York manner expressed well in the tap he has received from a stranger. His eyes move over his caramel bag before they find my face, a curious ranking spurned by strings of unfortunate or perceived occurrences.
“Let me know your stop and I’ll wake you up when we come to it,” I tell him.
He is not sure about this idea. He sits up straight, conjuring what energy can be drawn from his marrow and from the thud of his beating heart. He explains that he is in management and that these late nights with clients are not his routine. His constitution is not aligned for these sunrises, for subjectivities explored in hazy and convoluted narratives, for deals agreed in a back-clap or a dart game, for collusion inked at a shallow abyss.
This is not his meal. It is mine.
He tells me about his line of work and the train totters in its initial roll forward. I listen to the wheels clack and to the discordant song of his biography. I share with him the elements of my biographical song - or at least the tunes well-hummed for random public consumption.
This is the game and we have both played it. I suspect that we are both tired of it and tired from it. But we play it with a detached resignation, as one might remove gristle from a grill. These are steps toward sustenance.
And so we depart together. He stays awake and I entertain his stories and ask him for new stories, and he rolls them out with color. We do not dance, but there is a rhythm in this. And there is a beat.