Wednesday, April 28, 2004

On the train

A woman. Tired. Wearing a cream silk blouse; she's approaching 60; she's maybe 37 pages into a new book. A paperclip marks her page. She recites the words as she reads them and casts dirty looks at those on the El who disturb her. She's easily distracted and watches people as they come and go at each stop. She's unhappy that she's getting older and narrows her wrinkling eyes at the younger girls who get on at Merchandise Mart. Indistinguishable words of contempt slip between her lips.

The young girls are socialites. Dressed to impress. Young businessmen happen upon our car at the next stop and form a reconnaitre with the young women. The blond responds vehemently, "Heeey!! What's up guuysss?" She throws the unnecessary emphasis in her greeting. The two young businessmen, early 30-somethings, grasp the bars around her and block other passengers' access to the rest of the aisle. Words bounce around the car between them..."Are you still working at such and such?"--self-important mumbles--"Ha ha ha!!!"... Each young man with his hair gelled back, ties loosened, man-purse/briefcase slung across chests. One chews gum with serious intent and laughs loudest. The other is making progress with the blonde.

The older woman self-consciously touches her hair with her fingertips and glances out the window (not at the old church tower that survived the Great Fire--or so I've been told), but at her own withering reflection.

The young blonde socialite slams her head against the glass as the El lurches in midcourse. All laugh heartily. "Are you already drunk?" the chewer asks. The socialite's friend, seemingly unacquainted, is wearing a shirt from Walmart. I know--because I bought it for ten dollars. In true social-ladder-climbing style, the two girls get off at Armitage.

Standing up, the older woman shuts her book, The DaVinci Code--the uncovered book's spine reveals. She excuses herself and leans over her fellow passenger. At full length, her body reveals an attempt to retain, her stomach reveals a pin and a tuck, her face reveals a shot of Botox, and her scarf-tied waist shrinks as she sucks in her breath through gritted teeth, passing me one last disparaging look before leaving at Fullerton.

The younger corporate gentlemen have positioned themselves again in assertive male form. "How about that shit?" the chewer oozes through a jaunty smirk (that screamed former second-string linebacker). "Ha ha ha..." Long crow's feet crease on the other's face. They reposition again, approaching the door and quietly mulling over their important days.

I almost miss my transfer at Belmont.

They exit with me.

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