The 1

The 1 train hurtles away from 231st, bending on elevated rails, pulling me farther away from you, still naked and warm in our bed, half-awake, half-dreaming that I was at your side.

The train clatters on the bridge over the icy Harlem River, and a blanket is twisted across your body, a breast bare, eyes closed. With a fingertip you rim your navel like it was the edge of a glass. I'm late and there is no making up the time.

"Two-oh-seventh! Dyckman next! Stand clear of the closing doors!" The train lurches and I close my eyes. I'm there with you again, over you, holding you, there with you, slick with sweat while minutes slip past like the buildings outside, golden at daybreak.

Straphangers stumble as the 1 screeches to a stop at Dyckman, where weathered graffiti has little left to say and the razor wire lets its guard down. A woman squeezes her seat-and-a-half ass into the one seat next to me, pressing me against the cold metal wall of the car. "Step all the way in in the front! Don't block the doors!" It's too early for iPod earbuds blasting meringue and hip-hop.

As the train shoots into the darkness of a tunnel, I pull my collar aside to see a bite mark that has risen, red, on my ghost-white shoulder. The woman next to me groans as she spills some coffee on her lap and the conductor calls out a stop, but I am listening to your whisper-breath in my ear, a soft threat, an allegation, words you don't mean and will never admit you said.

The conductor's call marks progress but stations become blurs of people shoving out, pushing in, blue collars, backpacks and boots, gum-popping girls who smell like flowers chattering in Spanish, and moth-balled blue-hairs eyeing for empty seats. "One-thirty-seventh street! One-two-fifth is next! This is a 1 train to South Ferry. Stand clear of the closing doors."

You ran a fingertip up and down my chest, measuring and remeasuring, before I pinned your arms at your side and leaned into a wet-like-water dulce kiss. I slapped you and you savored it, smirking through gritted teeth as I clutched your hair in a fist.

The train shoots out of the tunnel into Harlem, where clouds have swallowed the sunrise. It's snowing now. The doors rattle open and a rush of people and cold air fills the car. "Please step all the way inside the train! Don't block the doors!" You can still smell me on your skin as I'm sucked back into the darkness under Manhattan's avenues, red and blue construction lights streaking past the windows.

A gym bag bangs my knee and a newspaper is an inch from my face as the train rocks. The floor has turned to slush. I scan the headlines as you take a deep breath. You roll to your side, eyes closed, and you clutch a pillow in both arms. George Bush says he's not going to bring the troops home and eight kids died in a Bronx apartment fire. I didn't win the Pick 3 … again.

Each stop chokes the train with people. " Ninety-sixth Street! Transfer for the 2 and the 3! Stand clear of the closing doors." I gripped your neck tight. You let me. My mouth next to your ear, three words made you cry; five more, the same again.

At 86th, suits and ties get on the train along with high heels, pinstripes, overcoats, and Gucci bags. The Wall Street Journal replaces The Daily News. At 79th, croissants and bagels. At 66th, wanna-be ballerinas bolt for class.

I'll be at work soon. You'll slide out of bed, reach for the ceiling in a long, tippy-toe stretch, and slip on those red panties and that Orioles T-shirt with a thousand holes, one where your nipple is. You'll pour milk over cereal and curl up on the couch to watch TV. You'll press your hand on your cheek, close your eyes and pretend it was mine. As I get off the train, I'll whisper "I love you," and disappear into the silent herd that pulls me with it.

6 x like a billion = how much I love you:

ty bluesmith said...


ex tee ex said...

wow. seriously. do it again.

An Unreliable Witness said...

Ah, I rather like mornings like that. They almost make the drab, daily commute worthwhile. Almost. Not quite. Wonderfully realised.

CBM said...


Ani Smith said...

I read this last night and I woke up this morning and remembered it. [Remembering things isn't one of my skills, either.]

~otto~ said...

Ty - shhhh
xTx - For you, I will
AUW - gracias
CBM - mission accomplished
Ani - a very high compliment indeed


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