Our two-week summer trip to Iowa is over; friends visiting from Iowa have come and gone; Will and Liam are in day camps for the next two weeks. Liam’s is in Boston, and we are using public transportation to get there. With a cooler day than the 100-plus-degree weekend, yesterday was a good adventure.
Bill dropped us off at the station and we caught the “T” into Boston. In the morning, this city train that runs every few minutes has plenty of room to sit since we board at the beginning of the line. A couple stops along the way, a young man boarded and sat directly across from us. He was hooked up to earbuds and a device, so there was no chance of making eye contact with him. Under his light blue New England Aquarium short sleeve t-shirt, tattoo-green octopus arms wrapped down his arm and below his elbow. The artistry of that tattoo held my gaze longer than socially acceptable. Liam and I decided that he worked at the aquarium. We had this conversation just above a whisper, yet no one could hear us because all nearby passengers were hooked up.
If I caught his eye, would it be appropriate to comment on the tattoo? My curiosity grew with the speculation of what the rest of the octopus looked like under his sleeve. What shape and how big was the hump of the head? What did the eyes look like? Or, was it just a tattoo of octopus arms?!?
This morning, same commuting routine with the addition of rain. I stopped at a gas station to buy two small umbrellas as ours were nowhere to be found in the house or in my van. Our backpacks were soon soaked since they stuck out beyond the protective field of the umbrellas. We decided to wear sandals and crocs, knowing they would get wet yet dry throughout the day. I drove to the station and found a parking spot a couple football fields away from the station. We skipped over puddles and hugged the edge of the sidewalk farthest from the street to avoid splashes from passing cars. Half the sprays spun up from the tires still hit us. Head down and sloshing ahead, I recognized and sidestepped the remains of a dead rat.
The trains weren’t too crowded getting Liam to his camp. Not the case when I headed for the library. The train doors opened at the first station and people nearest the doors peeled out in order to let interior passengers get off. Then we all piled in with the last row of people close enough to the doors to get their bums pinched when the doors closed. I stood behind a man with his back to me, and I reached through a space near his chin to grab hold of a pole – just as he moved his head. I nearly clipped his glasses off of his nose. I apologized and was pushed closer to him by the passengers trying to protect their behinds from the doors. I spooned this man for five stops.
I disembarked to make a connection at another station. A train had broken down on the track earlier, so the underground rat trap was packed with wet, sweaty commuters. Two trains were crammed full and waiting on another to leave the station before they could depart.
Unsure that I had the fortitude to sardine myself on this final leg, I checked GPS to see how far I was away from the library. A mile. I needed to escape to the surface. I saw an exit sign in the distance and headed that direction. A train pulled up alongside me. I would give it a try. Merge, merge, push, push – I was on! I was the one whose behind could get pinched. Nope, with a bit of a shove that condensed personal space to zero, another row filled in behind me. I needed to hang on to something, didn’t I? Or, were we so tightly packed that I wouldn’t move with the lurch of the train?
To be safe, I flung my left hand out and up toward the vertical bar in front of me. Immediately, I realized that my arm was between a young woman’s eyes and the screen she was hooked up to. Seconds later, like a calculated move in Twister, I moved my hand to a position just under the three other hands holding onto the pole, around chest height for me – as well as the woman whose sight-line I had been interrupting. Her half-inch shift moved her bosom away from my arm. In a bizarre way, this position seemed more commuter-acceptable than blocking that screen.
She was one of the few who could get an arm up to hold a device. A tall woman in the bottom-pinch spot held herself steady with one hand on the doorway ceiling. A man shorter than me was next to her, and he couldn’t reach any train surface to hold onto. He was relying strictly on the sardine-effect to remain upright. My left hip was squished into another hip behind me whose owner’s face I never saw.
The distance between three stops translated to immeasurable time.
I play a poor version of a disengaged commuter. I felt every piece of human flesh pressed into mine.
And, I’m still frustrated not knowing what the rest of that octopus looks like. We may be taking a train ride to the aquarium sometime this summer.