Writing on the Train
The electric sounds of the train fill the silence shared between several strangers, I myself am one of them. Everyone has their Monday faces on; droopy mouths, faded make-up, and ruffled hair. It's evening, I'm on my home from work and from the looks of everyone's expressions tied with their body language, so are they. Most of the time on my way home on the train, I plug my ears with music, close my eyes and isolate myself on the awkward, uncomfortable seat. But this evening, I am observing. People are interesting, intriguing creatures really, and when I read them, I realize more about them. Like these several strangers sharing a small space on a Monday evening, for example. I'm looking at this young gentleman, facing directly across from me. He's handsome, sports a smart brown coat and wears an outfit that tells me he spends time picking out his clothes in the morning. He's listening to his i-pod, escaping business. Then there is a doctor, a nurse perhaps. She is sitting across from the businessman. Her brown shiny hair is pulled back in a taught ponytail. She has a young face, wearing pretty earrings that compliment her brown eyes. She has an engagement ring on her finger. Her elbow rests on the window, and her left hand holds her head up. Looking just beyond her, I see an older man, I see his eyes, but the rest of his face is inside a book he is reading. He has a classy look to him, long coat, a wool scarf and some sort of Scottish cap on his head. Although I see him sitting there, I know that he has been abducted by the setting in his book. Today I see the train as more than transportation. I see it as a state of being, from one place to another. Where people sit and wait and do nothing until their destination. And watching people do nothing is what fuels the pen in my hand. I was fascinated by people when they are at rest, when they have nothing to do but sit and wait, closed off from the outside world around them. It's a complete contrast from that outside world, where the movement of people never seems to cease. This ride home is probably the slowest these strangers have felt all day. Perhaps it is the only time in their day when they notice that they are breathing.
I'm going to enjoy the period of time I have left until my stop, sink into the awkward seat, and watch the world go by out the window through my reflection.
God, goodness and Pete have so much
In everyday language
Tongues moving in directions
we can't measure
and you tell me this
about your Mother
and the adoption.
To hear your words
fill the same space
where grafitti prevails
where babies cry and Mommies
even yell at them
where the crowd
has no mercy for beggars
or fund-raising basketball students
spell out exile
in my head
(litanies and departure)
travel from 1926 to the present
where I have no idea
where I am going
"This Is Avenue J. Stand clear of the closing doors"
One stop away from home.
written June 2007 by artist, C.J Stephens
I really need a cigarette. I always feel like smoking when I am in the middle of the crowd. I need some air, it’s very hard to breathe where there are so many human beings around you.
I am looking to my left - there are so many people to my left. I am looking to my right- my right is occupied by those people too. I notice the smell of each one of them.
I need a drink. A drink might calm me down a bit. Vodka can be a huge chill. Even a beer would make me feel less attached to myself, in the center of all these bodies.
They all are talking. So many languages. Maybe they talk about me in so many languages. Maybe they notice the person inside of me. Maybe my movements reveal the stupid things I’ve just done.
I need a man. A man could hold my hand now. If he is big enough he can hide me from everybody’s eyes. A woman is good as well. If she is more attractive than me, everybody will stare at her.
Oh, this is my stop. How the hell am I suppose to walk through this crowd? All these men and women thinking that I am not what I really am, how can I pass through all of that?
I really need a cigarette. A cigarette and a drink. A cigarette and a drink with a really tall man, or a cigarette and a drink with a very beautiful woman.
BUS STOP JIM
I first met Bus Stop Jim one blustery morning at the bus stop on East Broadway waiting for the Copley bus. It was cold that morning we struck up our first conversation, both of us talking through our thick scarves.
Jim was a retired gentleman but not one to sit on his hands. This twinkly little Irishman didn’t stop for a minute. I thought he was a hoot.
I would run into him a few times a week. He would look for me at the bus stop and we’d find a seat on the bus together. For months we rode the bus in town and talked and talked.
After I left the job that took me downtown I never saw Jim again, but I still have a photo of him as a priest from one of his commercial spots.
Some years later I saw his obituary in the Globe and it listed all the creative things he had done in his life—I felt glad to have known him. Jim did leave me this legacy—he would always say, effusively, “there’s a lot of life out there, Pat, go out and get it.” Yes, thank you, Jim.
31 October 07
I was eavesdropping on the train the other day, a weekend day when the N-Judah was not very crowded. Nobody on the train seemed on the way to work. I can't help listening when people talk in a way that everyone can hear. First two young men got on board the train. Then a pretty young woman who had a crutches got on the train. The men were apparently good friends with the young woman.
One of the young men teased the young woman. He said, "So you're on your way to the Haight to spare change."
She appeared a person who probably had a good job. Her clothes were casual but neat. Sounding as serious as she could, but actually teasing back, she said, "Yeah, I'm going out to 'spange' on my favorite corner."
One of the young men said, "I've never heard the word "spange" before. It sounds like a foreign country. "I just got back from Spange."
Anyway, I was quite amused, that day on the train.
Riding the train is an excellent time to practice meditation for those who are interested in developing their meditative skills but find it difficult to create a space and time to do so on a consistent basis. On the train, the seat asks you to sit; the awkward silence of everyone around you invites you to turn your attention inward. At this point, you can either talk to yourself, fiddle with your cell phone, or just try to surrender to the fact that you are
a) on a train
b) on a train with an (often times) unknown driver
c) on a train that you have placed your faith in to stay on track and deliver you safely.
On a train, you can find the moment and its uncertainty. You can see the art of each moment dying to the next as you peer out the window and watch the moving picture show. Death lives between the present and the future. The only way to get to the future is to die to the here & now (which in the future will be the here & now).
You are riding on a train.
You are in the moment.
You are riding on a vibrator with periodic stops.
Suddenly, you are the train.
Suddenly, the many becomes one.
You are the here & now
You are the hero now