Slow like meandering molasses their movements stretch out over endless periods of time, delayed infinitesimally into themselves, soaking in a sweet and heavy tiredness.
With a jolt the subway shakes them awake. They blink hard a couple of times and pull themselves up in their seat obeying a faint, distant authority telling them in an angry tone and right into their ear to sit up straight and stop looking like a disgrace--a disgrace to themselves and their whole family. They turn their head to see which stop they reached. They sniffle and begin a slow conversation with their friend on the seat next to them. They had been nodding off together on the train.
They talk loudly and the guttural sounds they make travel through the car and offend the other passengers. They say mundane things and they say embarrassing things. The whole car turns away refusing to witness. Silent for fear of taking responsibility. Quietly, to themselves, they pity the two a little bit, but mostly nobody wants to be bothered. The two don’t care either. Maybe they don’t want to care. Sometimes, at certain points in life, one is offered the possibility to wrap themselves into a veil of irresponsibility. Behind that narcotic veil they move through the world comfortably separated from everything which could remind them of their misery, but also from anything that could show them a path out of it. It’s their own personal Purgatory realized here on earth.
These nodding people. There is always something off about their behavior. They seem to rather like to talk to strangers. Someone sits down next to them and sooner or later they will talk to them. They will look around the car, accidentally force eye contact with the person next to them, and nonchalantly pose a very polite question.
“Excuse me, Ma’am, do you happen to have the time?”
“Do you know what the next stop is?”
“Hey, do I know you?”
With overtures like these they try to reach out from under the veil. I wonder how they choose the people they begin a conversation with. I wonder if they have a system to categorize people, to form prejudices about them like we normal subway riders do. The strangers they talk to always answer dutifully and their answers always stay just that: dutiful answers required by a question. That’s what normal life teaches you: how to answer from under a dutiful veil. They pose more questions and try to lure out some compassion. They try to poke through the veil. They lead by example in what they would like the other to do. Soon the conversation dies down like between the two estranged parents, judgement and neediness. They turn back to the their friend with a new story about their misery. It will fill the emptiness between them and create some sort of adhesive. At least they understand each other, those friends, and someone will be there when they nod off again. They are a pair of fellow sufferers--each for themselves.