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Subway Stops

by Georgia Sampson
Photos by Grace Oeth

I hate the subway.

Others push past me and rush to fill the train car- I’m still watching them from the platform. Maybe I can run over to another car, but those are probably full too. The seats are already taken so people are standing, hovering around seats like predators stalking their prey. I can see it in their eyes. The hope that they might sit soon grows into a hunger. There are shoves from the people behind me. I keep my head down, but the pushes still come as if punishing me.

Photo by Grace Oeth

Photo by Grace Oeth

The conductor is saying something that I can’t quite make out. Everything is muffled. 10 more stops. I count them out on the map as the train moves forward with a destabilizing rush. I can feel the bruises on my hips still. I noticed them in the shower this morning. I tried not to mind them at the beginning, but the more I get moved by the crowd the more power the bruises hold. Five total, three on my right side, and no explanation. They weren’t that big but they were a deep purple. Each bruise pushing into me again, grabbing and releasing for a moment only to grab harder.

There is someone here that is wearing a potent knockoff of Chanel No. 5. I think it’s one of the women who is scrolling through their phones. Next to her, a group of teenagers yells on top of each other. One of them is tracking dirt onto the already faded floor. This car must be one of the old ones. From the smell of old cigarettes and dated goo on the walls, I want to say that it is from the late 80s.

A man sitting on a seat looks up from his book and makes eye contact with me. After a moment of panic, I break my gaze and look down the aisle. I can feel the pressure of eyes fall on me. I look down and pretend not to notice. Their gaze might shift if I just look away. Two kids are screaming at each other. The mother, who sits in the seat in front of them, looks too exhausted to glance back at them. In front of her is a couple. The woman’s hair flows down her back evenly and I can tell that she is pretty. She smiles in a way that is reserved for her partner. He sits in awe of her, trying his hardest to move closer to her. He seems to be taking up the majority of the two-seat bench that they are supposed to be sharing, but she doesn’t mind. He doesn’t take his eyes off of her.

The train’s brakes throw me forward. The cars stop as they pull into the light of the next stop. It’s only 10 am, but in between stops it feels like midnight. Every light in the tunnels of the subway seem like they shouldn’t be on, but it’s their way of telling you to turn around.

I hate the subway.

Suddenly, in the darkness of the tunnels, I feel my hips throb again. I feel pressure from my chest. I remember last night. In the shadows, I see someone walking toward me. The room is empty and I sit doubled over on a bean bag chair. Someone is walking toward me. The light comes through the car. It goes away. I don’t remember anymore.

More people shove me in and I feel a dull pain in my hips again. I remember going out last night. I remember getting ready and looking in Erika’s mirror. She laughed at me because I was looking at my reflection so much.

“You’re looking for a boyfriend tonight?” she said.

I laughed. I remember checking one last time before going out. I remember getting to the party, but I don’t remember anything else. I remember waking up this morning. I remember showering. I remember wanting to clear my head. I remember going on a walk and deciding to get on the subway. I remember wanting to go downtown. It was more of a push to go downtown. I remember that feeling. I must have forgotten about all the people and the dirty cars because I decided to get on the subway. I remember getting on the subway.

The kids are still yelling at each other, but now the mother is intervening. She grabs the oldest child and gives the rest of the group a stern look. The kids quietly apologize and sit catatonically.

In the darkness, I feel it again. The fluorescent light in the subway car doesn’t keep his hands away. I feel him on top of me again and I try to push him off, but he won’t move. Maybe I’m too weak. Maybe I’m not pushing. All I know is that I’m crying now. Because, in the darkness of the room, I can’t see his face. I don’t know who it is. But, I feel his hands on me, forming bruises, five total, three on my right side, and no explanation.

The couple is still sitting in front of the mother, but their conversation has turned sour. The woman brushes her hair over her shoulder and it snaps the edge of the man’s face. He looks at her with distinct disdain. She’s not paying attention. She looks out the window and turns her knees to the side. She pulls the arms of her sweater over her wrists. He says something to her under his breath. She flinches quickly but doesn’t look back at him. The train pulls to another stop and the lights flicker the on the green tint of the window. My hips feel a little relief as people step off. Others are swelling into lines around the open spots, they don’t want to waste more time on their feet. I continue to stand.

I grab the stainless steel pole and feel the lurch of the train. Five more stops. I missed some. I find my place on the map and count everything out again.

The train smells less like body odor now, but I can still smell the garbage in the bin near the door. I turned my head toward the back of the car again. The couple is still there. The woman was clutching her bag in her lap with one hand. The other hand, however, sat delicately in the man’s lap. His hand seemed to be supporting hers, but in a way that told her not to move. He brushed back pieces of her hair and smiled. He takes up most of the seat that they are supposed to be sharing. She can’t push him off though. There is something lurking beneath his smile. Something that tells me that he owns her. I can feel my bruises again; five total. She must have bruises too. He moves his hand up her arm and moves pressure to his fingers. Her skin tightens and she shrinks again.

No one else seems to notice them, but I can’t look away. My hips are throbbing. I feel fingers press into my pelvis. I turn around to stop this. I want to see his face. No one is there. Everyone is sitting now except for me. Her bruises are forming and I can’t watch any longer.

The train stops. I get off. I want to walk anyway, and I can’t be on the subway anymore.

I hate the subway.

Photo by Grace Oeth

Photo by Grace Oeth