It has been both easy and difficult to get up at 5am each morning for work. The sun doesn't touch the sky yet as I briskly step out of my apartment building, dodging flying plastic cups and ripped up grocery bags. The stepped on fighting pit-bull feces, shattered glass, and blunt fillings dropped against the dusty, dimly lit concrete sets a context that without pace, pulls out of me the thoughts I am scared to think when I'm around others. Each morning they come to me, only bit by bit, because the walk to the Dyckman A train is only a four-minute walk. My face is warm, wet, and salted at the rim of my lips before I even turn the fast corner. I cross the street when I see someone coming. I'm afraid they might hear me weep or let out a little held back scream. I'm in disbelief at how I had arrived at this place.
The train is there when I arrive at the platform, and I quickly dig through my bag for the card, swipe it through the turnstile, and make it into the train before the doors close. When I am not busy with grading papers, or planning my lesson, the droning people on the train disappear and the past reinvents itself in my mind. The sun beams again on my skin, and I am complete. The most pleasing sound in the world is the giggle of our son. He grabs onto and pulls his father's long locks as they swing over his face. Unable to walk yet, he lies helplessly beside him on his side of the blanket where there is shade. I smile. At 59th street a swarm of people rush in before the doors close. A thin, tall, redheaded woman walks in, just missing the doors, and I begin to feel warmer underneath my wool coat. I don't undo my scarf. I just watch. She finds a seat left vacant between two large bodied men. She easily slips in, slowly crosses her legs and tucks them in, places her hands on her small red leather purse, rested on her flattened, but still small thigh, and looks into space. Her lips are painted red to match her bag but the rest of her seems to carry a sort of natural, yet sophisticated, look. His redhead was shorter, and perhaps less graceful in her movement and stride. But perhaps that's what he liked about her. He never liked soft women, he once told me. She catches my less than tender gaze and quickly looks away, keeping me in her peripheral vision. I become aware of the tension in my eyebrows, and I try to soften them. They don't listen to me completely and fight back. At 42nd street Times Square, more people come between the redhead and I, but it still feels warm. They disappear again.
He would spend endless hours at his desk, shifting between windows downloading, digital drawing, and playing music. No music played that particular night. I'd say something, knowing I'd have to repeat what I had said, or get no response. No responses came that night. The leaves outside had turned red and it was almost two months since our boy had been born. Without saying a word, he got up and grabbed his small blazer from the closet. I tried not to remind him how small the blazer looked on him. I remembered how sensitive he was to criticism. I told him it was chilly out and he grabbed a scarf instead. He was going downtown, for a walk. I paced inside my mind as I held our suckling son against my breast. The chilly air blew the dust from the windowsill into the stale air. Ten minutes had passed and I couldn't sit still any longer. I sat at his desk, feeling like I had become someone I didn't want to become. I knew her name. I met her once in passing and noticed something strange. I searched his inbox. There were no messages. Perhaps he already thought I was this person I was becoming. I searched the trash. Four messages. My hands shook against the keyboard and I moved back slightly so that the tears wouldn't wet the keys. I clicked and read with my racing heart and the coo of our son interrupting the ringing silence. The living room had chilled and I could no longer hold back the wailing screams.
My fists slam onto my bag and I look to see if I had dropped anything. I read the faces to see if anyone had taken in my small blast, but like the redhead, they kept me at their peripheral. I stopped caring, and I let the tears fall. I look for the redhead but she is gone. Instead I see his redhead in my mind, her hair wound around my tight grip, knocking her off balance. I had been mindlessly picking at the dry skin beside the cuticles of my thumbs, until I hit tender meat. Fourteenth Street arrives and I swiftly grab my bags, head towards the door, and push against the insisting crowd.