I'm on the delayed and completely crowded N-train to Manhattan. I stand awkwardly and uncomfortably. My raised arm holds on to the pole. I have my head contorted and turned over my shoulder so I don’t make eye contact with the other commuters. There is no space. I can feel other commuters on all my four sides. Limbs and backpacks pushing into me. I can’t look. I can’t look. I can't look. I have to keep my gaze moving or risk locking eyes with someone. I'll have to ride like this for an hour.
I see a fly buzzing along the light fixture. Black, testy, and aimless. Flying here and there, claiming the free space above the commuters' heads. It gayly bumps into the lights or moves long stretches without meeting obstacles. I watch it. Down the aisle it revolves in a couple of turns and lands on a man’s hand that’s holding on to the pole. A black speck on a dark brown skin. At first it can sit there unbothered, but soon the man feels it triggering the soft black hair on the back of his hand and he shoos it away. It’s flying again.
A wide arc almost grazing the ceiling, then, it dives down to the sitting commuters, spins around in a circle and comes to sit on a lady’s black hair. The fly is almost indistinguishable from her straight ebony strands. Only its shiny wings betray it. It tiptoes over her head. It moves up and then to the front, to her hairline. There it rests rubbing its legs and cleaning its head next to the lady's skin which gleams in the fluorescent light of the train car’s interior. Tanned and shiny. It's smooth up by her hair-line, but closer to her eyes, nose and mouth there are some finely drawn wrinkles. The fly is still. I am still. My arm begins to hurt.
The fly takes off, buzzes at an inconsiderate speed. I lose it for a moment, then I see it again. Still zipping above the sitting commuters down the aisle. Moving, buzzing, being alive, uninhibited, and curious. It approaches a very heavy-set gentleman. His dwindling oily hair beckoning it. It lands. The gentleman scowls, lifts a hand and bats at the tickle he felt on his scalp. Gracious at 600 frames per second it jumps off his head to evade his hand, picks itself up out of the fall and comes to sit on the back of his shoulder. This part of his summer shirt's thin fabric is soaked in sweat. The fly noticed and begins to nibble the nourishing juice of salty skin particles and oil. Hungry, anxious, greedy. I feel hungry, too. I am still being squeezed in by the crowd around me. The pole holds me in place like an anchor. To the dismay of the riders around me I move a little to get the stiffness out of my limbs. I keep looking at the fly.
It takes off. To my dismay it flies straight down the car to the other end. I lose it. I look through the jungle of arms, heads, bags, and straps, checking the spaces for that one tiny black dot. I can't find it. Then, the familiar motion of a bothered jerking head and arm. The fly is bothering a muscular, six-and-a-half foot tall man with a defiant and angry expression on his face. I'm tense. I fear for my brother fly. I can't see him. Just the big man swiping at it. Angry, brooding, and loaded he explodes into a storm of primal power. He tries to catch the offender, misses him, feels self-conscious, gets rid of him for a while, but then the fly pops up out of nowhere and grazes his eyelashes. It tickles. He doesn't like that. He warns the fly, threatens it, gives it dirty looks. My friend doesn't care, he just flies away.
My awkward position hasn't changed. My muscles and joints hurt, I fight the numbness in my hands with a nervous wiggle of my fingers. My friend flies and loops through the air. The car and everyone in it is his. He flies back closer to me again. Could it be that he has seen me, too? Does he know how happy I am for him, able to move, unencumbered, to all the people in this crowded subway car. Hello, Fly, how are you? Wait, where are you going? Stay here. No, don't fly there. As he is flying to a very attractive young woman who is standing behind me, he enters an area my glance can’t follow him to. I can't look. She'll notice and that would be embarrassing. I can't look. He has flown into her direction and I have lost track. I can't look. I stand contorted and nothing is happening. What is he doing? Did he land? Carefully I attempt to steal glances. Through the reflection in the window and in the corner of my eye I look at the woman. Where is my friend? After a while I spot him on her left arm. Fly, come here. You can't touch her. But of course he doesn't listen. In fact he keeps crawling over her arm towards her chest. Fly, What are you doing? Don't go there. It's too late. He has vanished in the canyon that is her armpit and reappears on her left breast. It's like he has no shame. At some point he is heading to where one would place her nipples. That's it. I can't look anymore. If you want to be like that, Fly, you can just go ahead and be a pervert by yourself. I'm a decent person. I have no mind for these shenanigans. I look away and go back to my traveling stance. Contorted, never looking, I suffer through an uncomfortable, crowded train ride like the decent and upstanding person I am.