On Board #42

Details here. Submissions here.

Jan. 15, 2009, 6:14 p.m.
Q Train – 7th Avenue to Canal St.

Slowly, a man walks down the steps to the Manhattan-bound Q train (there’s no B service today). His reinforced plastic cane is the only good leg out of three. At the bottom of the stairs is a trash can, and the man lifts his cane and gingerly lowers it into the can. It looks like he’s ready to drop the cane and move on, but his arm keeps going until his wrist then his elbow and finally half his tricep are gone from view. He’s either hoping something is there, or testing the can’s depth.

It’s unclear whether he might need anything out of a trash can. He’s wearing practical brown shoes, a warm hunting jacket and a two-sided scarf, black and brown. He has dirt-colored cargo pants and a black fedora. Either way, he moves on toward the front of the station, pausing every ten feet to catch his breath or his balance or just because.

Inside the car, directly across from the man, are a boy and girl, no older than 17. She almost has enough money for a piercing, which has to be on her belly button, because her parents say it has to be somewhere no one can see it and thankfully that’s all she can think of. The boy looks confused. Her boyfriend just broke up with her, she adds, fearing he was a bad influence on her.

“I told him, ‘I don’t smoke and drink because you do,'” our female passenger said. “‘I smoke and drink because I want to.'”

The man doesn’t look up. He’s hooked the cane’s carved wooden handle over a handlebar, and now pulls a book from his bag, puts on a pair of rimless glasses, turns his fedora backwards, and starts reading.

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