"Oh Shit! I'm heading in the wrong bloody direction and my pills are back at home and I need a good stiff drink and the idiot who sold me that old lemon is the reason I'm even on this smelly subway in the first place and I want off! Now!"
"Sir, can I help you?"
"Who the hell are you?"
"I live here, sir."
Gus gazes around the compartment. "I'm late so I don't have time to . . ."
"I don't live in here, Gus."
"No? So what in God's name are you . . ."
"I live in your head, Gus."
Gus leans backward and squints, scrutinizing the floating head above him; a wave of vague recognition passes through his bloodstream. Arctic waters and polar air run into reason, but he shakes it off. He points to his watch. "Do you see what time it is?"
The stranger leans in.
"Hey not so close, Sonny!"
"It's time for your medication, Gus. Actually, it was time for your medication exactly one hour and forty-seven minutes ago." The stranger takes the seat opposite Gus. He sighs heavily. "Phew! I'm not as young as I used to be either, Gus."
"How did you know . . ."
The stranger points to his head with a hand that materializes from somewhere between the men, infinite space. "I got a room up there. Been living there for, oh, eighty-five years or so."
"What are you going on about, huh? You got a room where? In your head?"
The stranger laughs. "In a manner of speaking, yes. But it's getting a little crowded lately."
"Yeah, the compartments or, rather, the apartment walls are being taken down. I can see every individual abode now. People come over to my side and walk into my living room, my bedroom, even my bathroom. There's no division anymore. Everything is coming together and I'm right in the middle."
Gus nods his head in agreement. "I hear ya, buddy. Some days I feel as if everybody can see right through the walls of my apartment. They catch me spilling my dinner all over myself, falling out of bed, sitting on the crapper! But they ain't really looking at me though. Their eyes go right through me, ya know?"
The stranger points to his head. "I know, Gus. I know."
Gus looks out onto the tracks as the subway is about to pull into the final stop along the black line, brightness streaming into the dark tunnel as they approach the outdoors.
"It's been good talking to you . . . I didn't catch your name, friend."
But he is gone. Gus puts a shaky hand to his forehead and massages the bumpy roads that align his wrinkly skin.
The train has stopped. He gazes around the car. He is alone. He makes a feeble attempt to get up. Then settles back down. He checks his watch. No time has elapsed. He shakes his head and laughs. The train starts up again. It heads out into the open. Everything is clearing. He won't need his pills today, or that stiff drink. The air is crisp; sound is icecaps crumbling into the ocean, the tracks below a distant beat. The bumpy roads widen on his forehead as the land flattens right out and the train moves with ease through the light. At the other end someone is waiting and all is seen and every detail is the meaning of existence. And Gus never wants off.
M C R
This work is copyrighted by the author, David Woodward. All rights reserved.