53rd and 5th

‘Bet they can’t bottle up breezes like this on your planet, spaceman. The whole system, it’s really just a, a bunch of pistons and tubes for making these blasts of air. In the fifties daddy had nuclear holocaust on the brain and some idealists up at the Department of Infrastructure made sure that their shiny new bunkers and transport systems were narrow so the trains could push air in front of them. That way when the normals were forced down with the smart folks, like me, they wouldn’t vomit from homesickness. There it is now. Is it odd for you to feel wind here spaceman? When I make it upside I feel wind and expect a train to come rolling down along the avenue smashing double parked cars. But hey me, I don’t like the cold. Breezes are warm down here. Yes sir, all warm just like summer. So I say thank you to those white bread scientists from nineteen fifty nine, thank you indeed. Now a man has all he needs under the ground. Say, is it summer yet spaceman?’

Due to construction, until APRIL SECOND local trains are not running in BOTH DIRECTIONS

‘The sun is a nuclear bomb. We can’t let the Iranians get their hands on the SUN. IRANIAN SCIENTISTS BUILD TRACTOR BEAM IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DESERT. Can’t let the Iranians get their hands on the sun, it’s a NUCLEAR BOMB MADE IN CHINA by little kids. Welcome to Shanghai. In China, child support is a job. Little kids in the factory heh heh. What do you mean you’re tired kid? Work harder. Here’s an extra candy. Now get back to your machine heh heh.'


      The sound of a guitar. A man singing.

‘…such a night…’ ‘…in what way is that fair? And he stared between my legs…’ ‘…was cut in half. Clean in half. His eyes were…’ ‘…I couldn’t believe my ear…’ ‘…put your feet on the floor and don’t move motherfucker. The guy was laughing…’ ‘…I’m not too proud to beg...’ ‘ …you know somebody else will…’ ‘…couldn’t do it even if he wanted to. Anyway I’m not concerned with the Gendarme…’ ‘…listen closely. Don’t move again or I’ll tell your father…’ ‘…putting my clothes back on in the bathroom…’ ‘…I’m stealing you away from him…’ ‘…never. Not ever. Never never never would I…’ ‘…just so tired lately. I need a big strong black cup…’ ‘…look baby I just don’t know why we always have to…’ ‘… take you walking down the street…’ ‘…was soloing in G over A minor before puking onto the first couple rows…’ ‘…on my finals to get out of this oppressive hellhole…’ ‘…and at a glance you let me know that this was my chance…’


‘Dinner is for people that don’t need love. When you love someone, you share dinner? – no, you don’t. You’re full of love, you don’t need dinner. Marriage is for suffering, divorce is for happiness. Divorce is for happiness because you’re happy to see her GO. Government plan: use woman, STEAL your DNA. The government wants your DNA to trace you back five thousand years to a tiny village. Once the government gets their hands on your DNA, they will put retards in your family. The DNA strand comes from a TINY VILLAGE in the Himalayas.’


‘Subway makes Manhattan so Balkanized.’ ‘Each station gilded in the grime of a given principality – a nation of nations.’ ‘And who is your Archduke? Mister Bloomberg, Franz of midtown? Will the day traders rise up if he is quartered by an F train?’ ‘Or perhaps it’s Carmelo, Ferdinand of the fertile grounds along the FDR! Whose untimely demise – crucified at midcourt – spells war across the southern tip of the island!’ ‘Delancey has a standing nonaggression pact with 14th street, but north of that allegiance goes to the highest bidder, he of the unlimited MetroCard™.’ ‘And the homeless of Wall Street have always bristled at the entreaties of their more urban kin of the 2 stops above 80th street.’ ‘Who has drawn these factious lines? My voter registration card has no Uptown denomination, my social security card makes no mention of the Q, P or R!’ ‘Shut up man. Do you have it?’ ‘In my pocket.’ ‘Lighter?’ ‘Man shut up.’ ‘Where’s our stop?’


‘Jean said to get out so you know me. I got out.’ ‘Murder, it’s murder.’ ‘Look how bright this station is.’ ‘It’s so bright.’ ‘I know right? It like hurts my eyes.’ ‘The tracks look even darker. Like the edge of a cliff. I can barely see them.’ ‘Essex is like another world. The tracks are almost part of the platform. Sometimes I think it’s not that far, maybe I could just step down and walk around a little, see what it’s like. But here.’ ‘Might as well be bottomless.’ ‘And no hobos.’ ‘Bright.’ ‘My friend once rode an entire stop half out of the train.’ ‘What?’ ‘He tried to slip through the doors when they were closing and got stuck.’ ‘Bullshit.’ ‘Really. He was screaming the whole way. People were trying to pull him in but those old trains don’t let go.’ ‘He would have died. He would have gotten scraped to nothing along the tunnel wall like an eraser.’ ‘He was on the L. Wide tunnels.’ ‘Bullshit.’ ‘It’s true. The doors finally opened and he fell out onto a group of girls, screaming like he was dying. That’s how he met his girlfriend.’ ‘What’s this got to do with anything?’ ‘This girl and him. They were like total opposites.’ ‘And?’ ‘I don’t know. I was just thinking about the stations and the platforms. The dark and the light.’ ‘So Jean dumped you?’

A Manhattan bound LOCAL TRAIN is now approaching the station

      A voice.

The Five train is crowded this morning. You are holding onto a vertical metal pole to stabilize yourself as the train accelerates and makes its turns. There are several others with their hands gripping the metal, forming a grotesque totem pole of creased faces. Fleshy pulp of hawk, iguana, lioness, bear, deer. Scott, Giacomo, Rivvy, Brenda and Ashley are the names of the people reaching for the metal. Scott broke up with his girlfriend this morning as she lay on his bed in the soft gray light. He was halfway through knotting his tie, also a soft grey, as he matter of factly said that this isn’t working. He watched her reaction in the mirror, falling back on the pillow from being hunched on an elbow. An expected deflation. He stepped over her clothes and his used condoms as he left while saying please, for both of us, don’t be here when I get home. She sighed and didn’t care very much at all. Say goodbye to Scott. Giacomo will get fired later from his job at a very inconveniently placed convenience store (it is a ten minute walk from the subway station) for being late for the sixth time this month, though Giacomo will tell you it’s not his fault there’s all this fucking train traffic, as the conductor is announcing right now, the train halted in a tomb-like tunnel, and anyway what the fuck is train traffic because don’t they know how many trains are on the track and where the tracks go and don’t they have a schedule so they know what the trains should be doing and all that? Say goodbye to Giacomo. Rivvy wishes he hadn’t signed up for this Organic Chemistry class at 8:30a.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays with a lab at 10a.m. on Fridays. He is an English major and is only taking science classes to show potential employers that he is ‘well-rounded’ and ‘intellectually curious,’ though he’s failing because Org isn’t the type of class you wing, you really have to be interested and somewhat curious about hydrocarbons and chemical biology or else you haven’t a snowball’s chance, but Rivvy still has his free class drop saved up so he figures he’ll just make up the credit this summer. Which begs the question, why is he subjecting himself to this awful commute on Mondays still when he could be sleeping off his intense hangover? He will sketch cartoon explanations to this question in the margins of his behemoth Org textbook during the first hour before being called on to answer a question – which is odd, because this is a lecture class and people are never called out, so it must be obvious that he isn’t paying attention – and is embarrassed in front of the class, or what other people perceive as embarrassed but the truth is Rivvy is happy to provide a distraction for the other students who let’s be honest most of them can’t possibly give a damn about how the orbitals in Hydrogen and Carbon interact, and he is equally happy to walk out of class at 9:16am and catch the downtown Four train and go right back to sleep. And he stops just short of telling the professor fuck you and fuck chemistry because that could, you know, actually have far-reaching consequences. Say goodbye to Rivvy. Brenda is a lesbian and is very interested in Ashley, physically, and is staring at her, no effort at hiding it, and is particularly appreciative of the slight upturn in Ashley’s nose which is something she always finds turns her on. Brenda’s glasses are RayBans, a good brand all things considered and perceived as such which is the primary reason they are a good brand for an available lesbian from the Lower East Side. Brenda sure does wish that Ashley would return her gaze but as we know there are two breeds of folks in the subway, those who will never look at you and those that will make sure to look at everyone who comes into and leaves the train, Brenda being the latter and Ashley, it seems, the former. Brenda wonders if these traits match up at all with the hetero/homosexual binary, which is an odd thought to have but truth be told in the current social climate a homosexual is forced into thinking a lot about their own sexuality, which really shouldn’t be the case but well there you have it and Brenda is not going to fight it. The real issue now is that if Ashley’s reticence indicates heterosexuality then Brenda needn’t be window shopping, as it were, and should be on the lookout from now on for other women eagerly scanning the comers and goers, and she makes a note of this on the hand gripping the pole (lookers = good) before turning to search for another woman with a cute upturned nose gazing about the subway car. The car is far too crowded to see much beyond the back of the man directly next to her, though, so she goes back to studying Ashley’s face. Say goodbye to Brenda. Say goodbye to all of these people because you won’t see them again in this life.

Ashley, however, is a different story. She actually is one of those lookers and professes to love the subway because of the people watching, though she is also hetero. But right now her gaze is fixed on the pole in front of her, on her hand which is directly above your hand. In the stretch of time between Grand Central and Fifty First Street – usually between one and two minutes but extended to four and counting by the train traffic – she has been lowering her hand along the pole millimeter by millimeter until her pinky nail with its muted purple polish just barely touches the side of your index finger. And though you realize that the pole itself is filthy and Ashley looks about as clean as you could hope you inexplicably find yourself centimetering your hand down the pole away from Ashley’s. It strikes you that your retreats are of greater magnitude than her advances by roughly a factor of ten, which is out of synch with how you feel about Ashley. You find her attractive, but you do not know her, and for whatever reason you find her insistence on making contact with you disconcerting. Though you are now accusing yourself of a severe innate and incurable misanthropy, you continue to slide your hand away from hers. You are quite sure now, as well, that her movements are intentional. Four times you have moved your hand away from hers, and five times you have found her pinky resting against your index finger. It would be far less intrusive if Ashley would only look at you and say something, despite the headphones blaring in her ears, instead of playing this hand game. The subway has a way of making such interaction taboo. Reflecting on her insistence, you now find that you actually like the sensation of Ashley’s nail touching your skin, that way that unexpected contact with an attractive member of the opposite sex always seems to excite, the way, though it’s mushy and trite, the way that knowing someone else is thinking of you makes you feel about as good as you can feel at any specific moment. And now you find your hand’s movements are shorter, as if maybe it’s just the combination of gravity and sweat that forces your hand down the pole, just far enough to lose contact so that you can feel the insane rush of endorphins when Ashley’s nail is again touching you. Your eyes are closed now and you feel like you are playing some sort of instrument. You are playing a slow masterpiece that draws emotion from all who hear it, the pole is a violin or something, and you are the audience and you are great. And you open your eyes and now Ashley is looking into your eyes and you nearly panic because the entire illusion is gone and you are confronted with the very real question of what to do and whether to bring this relationship into three dimensions. You cannot look away. Neither, it seems, can Ashley. You are two blank faces hoping at one another, hands touching, barely but surely. Then the train unexpectedly lurches and crawls, then speeds to a normal cruise toward Fifty First and Ashley reacts by taking her hand from the pole to adjust her earbud, then places it back on the pole about six inches above yours. Which now seems like miles and miles, and she doesn’t touch you again. Say goodbye to Ashley, though, truth be told, you don’t actually know that her name is Ashley, and she doesn’t know yours.

A Manhattan bound LOCAL TRAIN is now approaching the station

‘Sexual harassment, love songs! Sexual harassment, love songs! Not for public, these police headquarters. Commissioner’s son is in jail for sex. There will be an investigation to see if he had BALLS. Commissioner’s son needed permission for sex FROM THE BOYFRIEND, that’s right. If you don’t get permission from the boyfriend’


‘that’s a sex crime.’

THERE IS A MANHATTAN BOUND LOCAL TRAIN now arriving. Please stand away from the platform edge, especially when trains are entering and leaving the station.

‘Sex is a crime. JAIL WOMAN for touching your body. Sex is a CRIME. JAIL WOMAN for touching your BODY.’

      The crescendo of a subway train.

‘Kill the woman! Ha ha ha ha. DINNER is for people that don’t need love. Happiness of woman: ROB MAN.’

This is a MANHATTAN BOUND E train.


‘Government plan: USE WOMAN. Steal your DNA.’

      Crescendo/de. The departed train reveals a lone man in all black, blind with clotted eyes, standing on the opposite platform. His implied stare spans the divide between Uptown and Downtown. He raises his arms and speaks .

‘Apollo’s chariot comes before the light! You can see that – though it’s invisible – when the tracks burn joyous and white and wind, ever the underworld’s sibyl, announces that the end…or something…is near. I am concave, yes, yes I am. You see? There I am again! Concave as can be in the dim subway car huddled at the rear. I am that tiny pin blowing up at every stop. You are the platform! A floating twin moons alongside me. What do you make of our double form? Love, I have locked eyes with another in the parallel car. Same speed, different tracks. Oh, what an apt harbinger! We are together, though neither leads, only waiting for some divergence – Fourteenth Street! And I thought I was express! Well, no matter, there never was sense in holding on. I AM THE EARTH’S NO LESS. And who stands waiting at the next station? Hephaestus? Hades? New love, pert and red lipsticked? I will soldier on through these borough-nations to become each tunnel’s halo-like limn, growing promise of GETTING THE FUCK OUT OF HERE. You, third rail, deathly electric and slim, who think you have capacity to steer, accelerate into your looping stasis. A million rides. Who knows what fair is? The nameless others who flicker like flames reflected in windows of passing trains…’



Andrew Zolot