Subway Ride

Originally appeared in Third Wednesday journal.

Scan3 cropped

Subway Ride

It was only a scratch, a tiny line on my cheek, a mere tracing of a fingernail whose polished edge held a single flaw – an insignificant burr – which found a weakness in the layer-dermal, nicking a capillary and leaving the slimmest, most trifling river of blood ever drawn.

When she had boarded my car, heads turned, eyes pointed, women and men alike. She stopped only to survey the field. I sat alone. She stalked the space, her eyes hungry, her breathing shallow and quick.

Me: Stillness. A rabbit in the tall grass,

She sat, gracefully swinging her hips around and down. Next to me. Our clothing touched but it may as well have been flesh.

I dared not look, tried instead to remember her from five seconds ago. Black leather waist jacket, tailored to fit. Black jeans, bought to shrink. Delicate porcelain skin covering sharp cheekbones, thin red lips, short black hair, not kempt, not messy. An aura, god, an aura. From the loins of Artemis and Eros.

My heart accelerated to the speed of a thoroughbred on the homestretch. She glanced at my hand, a gold stop sign encircling a wedding finger. The way she swayed her head and shoulders to music only she could hear told me such things didn’t matter. My eyes darted with uncertainty or embarrassment or expected failure and she laughed.

Do I make you nervous?

Maybe a little.

Good.

Then a kiss. All this occurred, except the kiss, I swear, silently, telepathically, while she stared sidelong at me. With her little finger she snatched a trickle of sweat from my cheek, and cut me.  She daubed at my face until molecules of red smeared her fingertip. She held it up to me; I tasted. She tasted. Finger lingering inside lips, mouth. Gentle vacuum, pulling, raising clouds of ache that swirled and danced with the vapors of pheromones and perfume. My nostrils flared for more. I inhaled all she could give, sorting through the odors of commuters and students and vagrants and old men rotting from the inside and diapers in need of changing and the ozone made by the sparks of the electric motors that propelled us.

We rounded a bend and she leaned into me with a pressure that was more than mass times velocity times centrifugal force times the gravitational pull of bodies. I leaned too, away; don’t show the neck. I prayed for mercy.

The train straightened out and she took her time un-leaning. Finally upright, she looked at me again. I fidgeted, my eyes searching for a safe place to land. I could only look at her. We stared for minutes or miles, then the train slowed and stopped. She slid off the seat, still staring, and rose to leave. She kept me in her sights all the way to the exit.

The doors parted. She waited. The cut on my cheek burned and I didn’t know if it would be extinguished by staying or going.

It’s not my stop.

I know.

It could be, though.

I know that too.

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