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El-Train Revelations

Mary Laut, 2012

        I hold my purse like it is a shield. God, as if a fabric bag is enough to ward off men that stink of bad news. But, I live alone here, and it’s what I got and I know how to use it. In the city, you have to use everything that is at your disposal, even if it’s just a small, flimsy purse.

        The lights outside of the subway car flash when the windows fly past them. The faces of the other people here get cast in brief stark relief. Each flash causes me to flinch slightly. They look like gun flashes, the lights. Not that I’ve seen any gun fights, but I’ve watched gangster movies. Guns are always flashing in those.

        On one end of the car sits an old Jewish man. He’s got a stooped posture and leans heavily on the cane between his legs. He’s a bit like an owl because of that and his eyes, what little I can see of them. He has these round eyes that are covered by his bushy eyebrows and Coke bottle glasses. I didn’t know that they made those things anymore. He also has this hooked nose that looks like it’s going over his mouth. Overall, he looks harmless to me. I don’t need to worry about the old Jew.

        I know that the train is stopping because the flashes of lights start to get longer, less like gun flashes. But the announcer still makes me jump a little in my seat. None of the people in the car had been talking, including me. I know that, logically, the announcement was about the train stop, but it just sounds like electric garble. The Jewish guy stands up and walks to the door. When he passes me I can see a rosary hanging out of his pocket.

        Oh. I guess he isn’t Jewish after all.

        The announcer’s garble said that the doors were closing… I think. With the old man gone, it’s just me and… him.

        This guy is standing caddy corner to where I am sitting, next to a door in the car. He’s tall and broad, good looking if I wasn’t two shades shy of terrified, with dark African skin. He’s also wearing these faded and worn jeans and a jacket that has thread coming off of the cuffs and collar.

        One of his hands is around the strap of his messenger bag. Like his clothing, it’s starting to fray at the edges. But it looks newer than what he has on. Could he have stolen it? No, that would be silly, what with how many fake designer bags were being sold on street corners. There’s nothing on that bag to suggest that it’s designer, fake or otherwise.

        He has hawkish features. Those sharp cheek bones look like they’re going to cut through his skin. His eyes look like they belong on a wolf or something. No eyes that I’ve seen are that tone of brownish amber.

        Instantly, I bow my head so it doesn’t look like I’m looking at him, even though I take sideways glances every few seconds. It’s just to make sure that he doesn’t move from that spot. Really it is. I can feel my fingers tighten around my purse. Oh why did I not listen to my mother and make sure that I always had a can of mace on me? If I had that I would feel just a little safer.

        All of the rules my mother told me about keeping yourself safe fly through my head.

        Always flip the deadbolt on your door. That one’s kind of useless for my situation right now because I’m not home.

        Don’t make eye contact. Okay, I’m already doing that. I glance at him again, and quickly look back down at my purse. No eye contact, remember, no eye contact.

        Always walk like you have a purpose and when you walk, walk close to the curb. Another useless one as I’m sitting, not walking.

        Hold your purse in front of you and close to your body. Okay, I’m doing that. I have my shield in front of me.

        I take another glance at the dark man. One of his hands was in his pocket. Oh God… What if he had a knife in there? A gun would make an obvious bulge in his pocket, but a knife wouldn’t. My eyes go from his pocket to his predator eyes and back down to my lap.

        But then I notice that the flap of the bag has started to move. I stare at it as well as I can from the corner of my eyes, and my jaw drops open at the sight of what emerges from the bag. It was small. It was white. It was fluffy and absurdly cute with the bluest eyes that I had ever seen on a kitten.

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All Information Copywright by Chimes Publication, Saint Mary's College 2010