“Stand [incomprehensible] door, plea…” The conductor hangs the microphone up prematurely and the crowded 6-Train leaves the 51st Street station heading to Brooklyn.
After withstanding the first jolt of the departing train, Carmen relaxes, holds on to the pole with her right hand, and keeps reading her printout. While she is trying to concentrate and ponders economic developments of countries she will never have the time to visit, the document keeps getting bumped by the awkward movements of a young man in front of her who is scrabbling about in his messenger bag. Finally, with his last movement he pushes the paper so far that it slaps against her face. She tries to lean away, annoyed.
“No problem.” She observes him while he leafs through the fully scribbled pages of his notebook and reaches a clean one. “Got to write down those sudden inspirations, right?” Carmen says with a smirk.
“Hehe, yeah….” The young man looks at her, then, down into his notebook, pulls the cap of his pen open, and holds the nodding tip hovering over the paper, but doesn’t write. The subway car uncomfortably rushes through under Midtown.
“What, you forgot it again? Man, all that commotion for nothing,” Carmen adds sarcastically.
The young man smiles. “Kind of. It’s just--It’s hard for me to write with somebody staring at me.”
“Ha! How did YOU get through high school? Well, naturally, I would turn around, but you see how cramped it is. Oh, no, wait, you don’t, because you thought you had to take your crap out and bump into everyone.”
The young man can’t help but laugh. “Sorry….” He shyly looks away. Carmen takes a good look at him. Well fitting suit, somewhat expensive. All in all not much to look at, though. He is probably an assistant or possibly a junior project manager--at most.
“I really think you should write it down,” she continues. “I swear, I won’t look.”
“It’s OK. I think I can keep it in mind.”
“Or tell it to me. I’ll patent it for myself.”
“Nah, it’s nothing to patent. I’m a writer.”
“A writer,” Carmen repeats. “So, what were you doing in Murray Hill? Selling a book or something?”
“No, I’m coming from further uptown. I have been hanging out at the Met all day, writing.”
“Why?” Her confusion comes out as condescending disbelief.
The young man shrugs, “Feel good there.”
“So, you shouldn’t be at work?”
“No, I have no work.” He is a little embarrassed.
“You sure look like you’re working. Why the suit? You going to something?”
“No. I wear it because people react differently if you are wearing a suit. They’re mostly nicer; vendors, train conductors. You bump into someone by accident and it’s not an annoyed face that you get. It’s more like, ‘oh, sorry, excuse me….’ Things seem to go a little smoother. I wanted it to be that way all the time, so, I started wearing suits.”
“OK…, yeah..., people in New York are superficial, I guess.” Carmen tries to talk the weirdness out of the conversation.
“Yeah, and believe it or not. Usually, less people try talking to you, too. People feel you have important things going on and just don’t feel comfortable talking to you. They assume you’re arrogant. So, to be left alone I always wear a suit. I hate it when people strike up conversations.”
After having said that, the young man lowers his gaze and fixes a spot on the floor. Carmen is put off by that last comment. The train has now reached Borough Hall and the doors open. The young man wriggles his way out through the people clogging the exit. He steps onto the platform and he is gone.