Thursday, February 19, 2009


The metro ride downtown was great. It was empty enough that I was actually able to take a seat next to an old man who smelled like sugar cookies. Across the aisle from me a woman, covered in beige apparel from the top of her head to her feet, sat quietly crying. A man whose frame was smaller than hers sat next to her, lightly jabbing her with his shoulder and speaking to her, clearly trying to cheer her up. She didn't speak, just kept her eyes on various parts of the car's ceiling, I suppose so as not to meet the gaze of curious watching strangers. She eventually mustered up a weak quarter-smile, but you could tell it was mostly for the sake of her companion.

Two hours later I'm waiting for the train to leave downtown and take me back home. As the platform gets more and crowded I notice how small the proportion of women is. We all get on the train, I am holding on to the bar near one of the doors. Two young men get on the car and stand between me and the door, so I am sort of facing them. They talk to each other, clearly good friends. It takes a few minutes before they engage in that most maddeningly irritating sleazeball habit of talking to each other about me. It's a tactic I've often wondered about - I think its appeal must be that they can refute any accusations by me with "7ad kallimik?".

I keep my eyes focused on a window, and turn away from them slightly. I am halfway home. My eyes quickly survey the rest of the car - it is mostly men, I see some women at the other end. Of course, they are all veiled. I use my coat, which I am not wearing due to the stuffiness underground, to cover my chest, though my sweater is quite loose anyway. I hold it the way one would hold it if it were wrapped around a child, and I wonder if the illusion of motherhood could somehow offer added protection. Most of the men look straight ahead of them or are sleeping, but there are enough of them who have steadily stared at me for long enough that I feel like I must turn into some kind of statue. I draw my legs closer together as I stand, bring my arms as close to my body as possible, and concentrate on not accidentally making eye contact with anyone, or, god forbid, thinking of anything that might make me smile.

I would like to reach into my bag for my ipod but I am afraid that the movement would only attract more attention. So I stand there, fixed in place, thinking of stone. Eventually the car empties significantly. I shift positions a little bit, and catch sight of a man leering at me, chewing something in his mouth, sitting with his legs spread open, leaning forward, taking up space with his body. I think of the way he sits and I also think of how I have been quietly trying to disappear, to be invisible and still and small, and I am suddenly furious. A cold kind of anger, which is all the more unpleasant and deadly, because hot anger, it can just come to the surface, you can let it erupt, and in doing so, let it go. Cold anger, on the other hand, has nowhere to go, and you must carry it around, never quite sure exactly how it is affecting the rest of you.