Tuesday, August 31, 2021

The El by Joan Murray

The El

No one ever grabbed my ass on the stairs down to
the D. But on the stairs up to the El, it happened
all the time. I guess it was anatomically more natural,
like reaching for an apple, but the first time,
I wasn’t sure how to feel. I think I felt warm,
which wasn’t an emotion. It felt like a rite of passage,
though I’d never heard of rites of passage.
Disgusting is what I said when I told my friends.
A grown man. I was twelve then. It felt like flattery.
From the El, I could look into other people’s windows,
but if I saw them at all, what they were doing mostly
were the same kinds of nothings we did in our own
apartment. What I usually saw were their curtains
blowing in and out, ’cause their windows were wide open.
It wasn’t like the High Line, where many years later
I saw two men in a hotel room doing a performance
just for me. The High Line used to be an El. It still is in a way,
though it’s covered with flowers. And I’m the train.
When I turned nineteen and got married, I went to live
up by Mt. Eden. It was cheap and noisy and the El
ran below our window and our daughter died and we were
still in school and took the D train to Manhattan now.
But coming home one night, I looked up and saw curtains
blowing in and out of someone’s window. I was on an El,
I don’t know where, or how I made it home. It wasn’t our El,
but it’s the El I dream about: I’ve just come down the stairs,
and now I’ve got to figure it out. Up on the platform
you could buy peanuts from a dispenser and either
give them to the pigeons or eat them yourself.

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