It was a great morning. Sure, it had only been an hour or so since my alarm blared me back to the bleary awakened world of a Monday, but things were going great. Rocking out to the Ben Folds MP3s that I yanked from a friend the night before, I was pretty at peace on the El this morning. Filled to the brim with the usual drained and out of fuel faces, I stood out with a smirky smile on my face. Then I saw it. It was a small piece of food that was logdged into the crevice found on the edge of lips which were, by the way, rather annoyingly chewing whatever its brethern had been with a slight smacking and an open mouth. It stood there, an ambiguous shade of white akin to eggshell and beige but annoyingly not either. It seemed to sit with the consistency phlegm, clinging to his face gaudily. It made my skin crawl. Cream doughnut filling? Crumb soaked in spit that had somehow made its escape? A range of possibilites existed but composition wasn't important, position was and I found myself staring at it, lying there in its forgotten fold. It lay there smug in its saftey.
Its owner was a rather non-chalant, if badly mannered, man. Like many, he seemed to fit the bill of an office worker. Polo shirt, slacks, rush hour commute... these things all had the smatterings of that kind. Eating on this commute was probably a daily ritual. I hoped that keeping part of that ritual on the outside wasn't par for the course.
I tried to catch his eyes. Blue, if my memory serves me right, and bespeckled. But they scanned one of the various daily rags that were offered for free around every train stop. Not very pertinant and all rather vapid, they seemed to be an easy and cheap distraction for most commuters. Sadly, he seemed to be entranced by this. He never looked away from it, eyes glued to it as badly as it was to his face.
As time passed, I contemplated saying something aloud, but he was standing in the aisle and my words would have to cross three people and be a little rude of me to do. I mean, afterall, what if it wasn't even a piece of food, but some kind of weird growth on his face or an oozing pimple? Then, instead of being nice, I would be an ass. I contemplated going up to him and tapping him on the shoulder non-chalantly, but was trapped by fellow commuters cramming themselves into what space was allowed. I breathed in and out trying to calm myself down. Oddly, it seemed to do the same, but it was more trying to hold in its mockery than calm down.
So I sat, and I watched, sitting smuggly... mockingly. Time passed and he sat down in a newly freed seat as the seat's former owner switched to the Brown line, furthering the divide between me and it. Instead of being a comfort at being somewhat out of sight, the distance just seemed to increase its smugness.
I watched it as the train zoomed along, hoping against odds that this man would just wipe his mouth out of habit or instinct or that maybe someone else would notice and signal him non-chalantly. As my stop approached, my frustration with it grew. It was so obvious. Did no one else see it? I glared at it, hoping that all of this would be focused through my eyes and fired at it, causing it to spontaneously combust or otherwise, be done with. It laughed.
I made one last heroic attempt to get to him as I my train reached my stop. I mean, what if he had an interview today and it spoiled everything as the interviewer was similarly disgusted by it? A wife and kids popped up out of no where, crying that they hadn't eaten in years. What if he was to meet the wo/man of his dreams and s/he was turned away by this demonic imp. I got up, my hand extended, my heart steeled. I reached out, not knowing what I was going to do, but knowing I had to try. Five feet, four feet, three feet... then the tide of people rushing toward the door swept me away... retail workers, paper pushers, desk workers, and other people marched on, unaware of my struggle and pushing me out of reach and eventually out the door.
I looked back as the door closed and searched for his face. It was there, still glued to the newspaper as the other it, shining now in my vision, was to his face, gloating at my failure. I shook my fist at it as the train moved on. I had failed. I turned and tromped on to my day of work.