remember when pluto was a planet? “why did they change that?” i think because of its size. most people still consider pluto a planet. “it makes no difference to me whether pluto is a planet.” what is a planet? just a thing to live on. well, at least that’s why humans look for planets. to try to find a new home once we completely ruin this one.
a soot covered rat runs underneath the rails. the train’s 4 minutes late. it sticks its head into an opened bag of sweet spicy chili chips that somehow ended up in the tracks, but re-emerges empty-mouthed and continues its search for scraps. what a dangerous way to live. with little sense of when the next giant whatever-that-is comes roaring through, crushing everything in its path. hearing something in the distance, the soot covered rat runs away.
they should give prisoners vapes. it’d give them a hobby. there’s a lot of douchey mods to experiment with. so many flavors to try. “nah, they’d use them as weapons. the dumb ones would throw the batteries at someone’s head…”
we miss a train by seconds…
“…shit…eh, whatever, i think another’s coming soon. what were we talking about?” prisoners. “oh right, i’ve seen a few shows about them. smart prisoners could make stuff out of anything. prisoners are dumb in other ways, but they’re crafty. to survive they have to be. either that or they have enough time in there to think of how to be crafty.”
the next train doesn’t come for what seems like forever.
“what’s with movies now? they got that stupid bruce springsteen movie, and an elton john movie.” plus a movie about the beatles. “that too.” studios probably hear rumors whenever another studio does something. then they all decide to make it a trend. if one sells well, the rip-offs make a decent amount too. “they’re making one of those…” they’re always making another of those. here’s a movie people enjoyed, but more HD and lazy.
“i think i’ll still keep watching movies. it’s better than doing nothing at all besides work.” there are a lot of bad movies. also a lot of decent ones. the best movies to me are ones that are a 6 out of 10 quality wise. or like 3 out of 5 stars. it’s crazy how we rate movies with stars. there are a lot of great 6 out of 10 movies though. “how is that possible? if it’s a 6 out of 10, it’s not that great. i’d say an 8 is good and a 9 is great. i barely watch anything i’d call a 9. or i do, rarely.” a great 6 out of 10 movie is a movie with a good idea, or interesting dialogue, but which could’ve been better if they had more time, money, or talent. they’ve got a sense of undiscovered potential. especially since most times the studio already cut their losses and won’t bother with a remake.
train’s on time. doesn’t feel fast enough.
“some guy got hit by the subway this morning.” is that why there were delays? “yeah, i looked him up. there was only one article about him. it said the police were still investigating.” it’s good he at least got an article. you’ve got to either be rich or involved in a gruesome crime to get mentioned in the news. “it was also an early suicide. maybe there’s more written about it now. kinda doubt that. anyway, i saw the cops from my train’s window. they were standing over a body bag. crazy. i’ve seen videos where people who get hit by a train are sliced open. meanwhile i didn’t even see any blood on the tracks.”
maybe he timed the jump well. there’s been times i’ve stood on the edge of the platform, imagining myself jumping right when the train was pulling up at full speed. i’ve heard if you do it well the impact will knock all your bones out from the cartilage and leave you dead lying like a bag of bones. “you end up in a bag either way. would you ever do it for real though?” well, i haven’t yet. what about you? “i wouldn’t jump in front of a train, no. i know how much of an inconvenience that is to other people. especially on a work day. i’ve had a lot of delays because of things like that.” isn’t that part of the appeal? “the appeal? yeah, i guess. jumping would be a nice little final fuck you to the world.
the tunnel’s dark and endless.
“i watched a documentary about a guy who got turned out in prison.” turned out? Like raped? “He did get raped, but i meant turned out as in he started acting very womanly. doing house cleaning type stuff for other prisoners. they’d buy him shit from the commissary. plus protect him.” you said that as if the average person knows what ‘turned out’ means. “you didn’t know that term?” no, the only prison slang i know is ‘splitting wigs.’ what’s your point?
“oh, nothing. I found it funny how the warden said, yeah we know stuff like that happens here. it’s just better than when they kill each other.” prison’s are rough, man. We need better prisons. Every prison needs to have classes. one class with books. Another class learning how to fix sinks. Intense therapy in a room with a nice couch. A cooking class maybe. “Nah, no tools or cooking. I wouldn’t trust prisoners with heavy objects.” you have a very low opinion of prisoners. “You have to admit things happen. They’ll use anything they can as weapons. even if it’s in self defense.” the prisoners who wanna get a weapon will find one whether or not there’s a cooking class. I wouldn’t wanna punish the people who wanna bake a pie for what happens between a few bad apples. “i disagree. I really do. I’d get them video games instead. Or a movie night.”
headlights peeking out the tunnel. a comforting blindness.
imagine if there were a train that went to every place on earth. “i don’t get how that’d work.” it just goes everywhere. that’s not the important part. what i was gonna say is imagine someone got on one of those trains and never got off. in a way they’d still be on a train to nowhere. “interesting.”
subway’s on time again. as if to cut the conversation short.
today was a shit day. “they’re all shit days.” i’m surprised people came in wearing shit for the costume contest. “yeah, i liked the guy who came in barefoot wearing a sheet over his head. i would’ve voted for him but the survey they e-mailed us didn’t have anyone’s picture on it and i couldn’t remember his name.” i would’ve voted for the woman with paint on her face. she was dressed up as a hot skeleton. a lot of effort went into her make up. “neither of them won. i think the person with the inflatable ostrich won.”
our co-workers should grow up. they were going around the departments. sharing candy. pizza. what a lame thing to do. “nah, it’s not fun for us. we’re miserable. but i’m glad it wasn’t a typical day. they even carved pumpkins for decoration. i hope HR throws those out before they rot, though i heard that woman with the inflatable ostrich yelling, ‘this is the best day ever!’ because we got food and people got to dress up and laugh with each other. now i’m glad i didn’t participate. probably never will because i agree it’s stupid. still, besides for us and a few others, it was a fun day for a lot of them. they enjoy having these special days with who they consider their friends. even if it’s in a place no one wants to be.”
the train arrives quickly yet doesn’t move out of the station. there’s a disruptive passenger 3 stops away.
“did you hear about the farmers?” yeah, they’re getting fucked by tariffs. china’s not buying beans from america anymore. “yeah, something like that.” a lot of farmers are not the types of farmers you picture working on a small field with like 2 cows. “are you talking about factory farming?” no, i mean there are a lot of farmers who let corporations use their land. “i don’t think so. i’m gonna look that up if i have service down here….hm, yeah, it’s only 5% who are owned by a corporation. wait, a lot of them apparently end up making agreements with like purdue.” at what point is purdue not owning the farm then? do you know if they can set quotas on how much the farmers have to grow? “probably.” so who is more powerful? “between the corporation and the farmer? the corporation.”
Exactly. “shit. i’ve never actually been on a farm.” me neither. i could see you liking being away from people. “nah, i’d like to be away from this fucking crowd. Yet not completely isolated. everyone can they do their own thing and i do mine and we don’t talk except for in certain situations where we might have to.”
heads are hung and limbs are loose on the crowded platform. some graffiti on the trashcan says “PRAY.”
“where’s this fucking train?” should be here soon. did you hear about that delivery driver who died? cops killed him. “Why’d they do that?” 2 guys took his truck hostage. they figured it would be easier to shoot the truck up instead of chasing it down. both those dudes died. so did the driver and a random person. “that’s sad. they should give the driver’s family all the packages that were in his truck.” they should give him way more than that. “I wonder how those people who got 1 day shipping feel about this. They’re not getting their packages any time soon.” they’re probably more pissed about that than about the driver dying.
who could blame them? They most likely didn’t know the driver in person. what’s been bothering them in their own lives is not being able to make toast. “did the delivery company say anything?” they made the typical statement. ‘Blah, blah, blah,’ it’s sad we lost an employee. we want to pray for his family. i don’t think they even named him. called him a ‘service provider’ or some shit. also thanked the cops for their hard work. can you imagine? they get thanked for just about anything. also, what about that random bystander? everyone’s talking about the delivery driver. his death’s the more interesting story. that unrelated person’s death is unlucky and sad but because they weren’t directly involved or anything, in the end it’s seen one of many minor details.
a huge roach crawls across the concrete island. if it were any smaller it’d get swept up in the waves of dragging feet.
“heard about that iran thing?” yeah, we killed some powerful guy with a drone strike. he was the second most powerful guy in the country. “no, i don’t think he was. what was his title again?” who cares? at the point he was at it was more than a bullshit title. it’s not like us where we’re ‘analysts,’ yet that doesn’t mean anything outside of the one place where we work. actually, even there it means almost nothing except we’re the ones at the near bottom of the corporate ladder. the iran dude was making decisions with real consequences. good or bad. it’s weird a person can have so much power for so long, then get blown to bits suddenly by a missile. do you think he ever thought about the possibility of dying like that? “no.” really? “wait, what? i must’ve misheard you.” do you think he thought about the possibility of being killed? “Iran dude? oh yeah, sorry. he had to. i’m sure all politicians know they could be targeted.”
Whatever the case, i’m a little unphased. seems like things get worse, yet somehow also stay the same. there’s flare ups then nothing then more events that feel like they’re escalating towards something then nothing. “shit happens. not to us yet.” you’re right. some assistant or whatever could’ve died in that drone strike too. to kill that one dude. “that should make me feel scared.” i’m not scared either. we were lucky to make it out of prime draft years. “i think i had to sign up for the draft to vote. getting drafted used to scare me.” same. fortunately now they won’t want two smokers in their mid 20’s who’ve got bad backs. “Yeah.” america has a lot of weapons too. it’s crazy we have that many, though it definitely makes me feel more safe.
somewhere else on the platform is another set of voices: “to be a philosopher you have to say things that are weird but you think are cool. oh yeah, did you have band practice today?” no, it was cancelled.
what do you want? “what do you mean what do i want?” out of life. “right now for this train to come. but out of life? i don’t want to think about that.” why not? “thinking about that stuff makes me angry and depressed. i went on the wikipedia pages of some screenwriters last night that had like 3 words written about them. meanwhile there are actors who star in a few bad movies and get whole pages written about their lives.” you’ll probably never get a wikipedia page. i’ve accepted that about myself. we’ve got to do things for the love of the game instead. “i’ve got no love for this shit game. i just want to be home, alone, and watching TV.”
a train arrives. extremely packed. “do you wanna wait for the next one?” sure, another should arrive soon…
do you think there’ll ever be another presidential assassination? “at some point. Hopefully. it’s funny how people still talk about JFK. and have theories.” well, that’s the only one that’s happened. wait no, i guess and abe lincoln, but that happened so long ago— “yeah.” it almost feels like it happened in another world. “basically did.” it’s crazy how every presidential assassination got more complicated. “they all ended the same way.” for abe lincoln the killer walked up behind him— “true—“ and shot him in the back of the head. for JFK they had to shoot him with a sniper rifle. “i guess you’re right.” the presidential limo, man. shit’s bulletproof now. “it’s funny people back then thought the president riding around exposed like that was safe.” yeah. “didn’t you see bill clinton at a basketball game? i’m surprised he goes out like that.”
bill clinton took photos with some couple in the front row. They were getting married at a nets versus bucks game. it was a power move. for JFK, i mean. to ride around like that. the people probably felt like he was one of them. he wasn’t hiding out in the White house at least. reminds me of the pope. “which pope?” some pope in like the ‘90’s. if i’m not wrong, he got shot, then went to the prison to visit the guy who did it and forgave him in-person. what a power move.
“i’m not sure the pope was thinking about it being a power move.” no, he just believed what he preached. in god, forgiveness, jesus. i’m not sure if the church pedophile thing was as big a deal back then… “i’ve heard of a few documentaries about the church rape thing. haven’t watched any though.” well, if he helped cover it up, then that’s interesting. how one person can work to protect the system which got them power, while also on some level also living up to what he was supposed to be. this big religious figure. A role model. honestly, that was pretty holy to forgive a dude who shot him. “a lot of people do what they think is right, even if they also know it’s kind of wrong. like, wait, let me think about this for a second…if they think what they’re doing is necessary for what they’re trying to accomplish, a bigger goal, belief or whatever, then they’re more motivated. fuck, uhm… does that make any sense?”
descending down the platform, the cars of the train are shaking more than usual.
did you ever have a kid ask you to buy them cigarettes? “a few times.” did you do it? a kid once asked me to buy him a pack of juul pods. he was showing me the money but i asked ‘how old are you?’ in a snarky way. half because i don’t think any kid should be smoking. but also i liked having the ability to say no to someone who needed my help. it was funny to me that now the kid had to stand on this dark corner asking strangers to buy them juul pods until they either gave up, went in the store to try and steal them, actually got someone to do it, or got kidnapped. “some of those are unlikely to happen. i have bought kids cigarettes though. only because i remember being out and having to do that with my friends. we were once in a parking lot and asked a pregnant woman if she’d go into a liquor store to buy us stuff.”
the platform, a world between worlds. not the first nor last destination for most. except the rats, roaches, and homeless people sleeping down here for warmth and relative safety.
“i’m not smart enough to discover anything. But if i was a researcher or archeologist or whatever i’d study tribes. i was watching this video where this dude went to some island with this tribe that doesn’t really see people…well, they see people because they’re people. they just don’t talk to people who live like we do.” so they’re uncontacted? or at least they were. “yeah, that’s the word. the guy who was filming reached out his hand for like 3 minutes. the tribe didn’t know what to do with it. you’d think the guy recording would’ve shown them what a handshake was. so they’d know what they were doing.” handshakes might not exist in their tribe. they could’ve perceived it as a threat and killed him.
“would you go to one of those islands? well, they’d probably murder you. what if you didn’t scare them and they spared you and let you into their world?” no, i don’t think that’d work. “yeah, i didn’t think of the diseases. their bodies aren’t used to certain germs we have.” i didn’t even think of the diseases. “shit, well, you’d also have to learn a lot. like how to make spears to fish.” damn, i didn’t think of that either. “why wouldn’t you go then?” it wouldn’t be the same for me. they don’t know what a subway is. they don’t have money. they find 2 fruits and think oh i’ll share these with my tribe. they might never get a full fish to eat but at least they all have enough to be satisfied. some of them even have tobacco, maybe even weed. so they wake up, smoke some real chemical free shit, then go do whatever work they need to get done. “like sharpening weapons and finding food.” yeah, how long could that take between 8 or 9 people? “a few hours maybe.” an hour or two max. afterwards they’re free to relax. “they probably have to worry about animals, and don’t have the medicine we do so if they get sick they’re fucked. otherwise, that sounds pretty good. i still don’t get why you wouldn’t do it if they didn’t kill you?” for me it’d always be an escape. i could never forget how it felt to be tired on this platform, waiting for a train after hours of staring at a computer. and what if they really liked me? what if they taught me their language and asked me to tell them about where i came from. i wouldn’t want to teach them about any of this at all.
one of the new model trains pulls up. it has fewer seats than the last version and is a lot brighter. while every year the crowd gets larger, seats continue to disappear.
“i have a grandma somewhere in a nursing home. she has dementia. my dad forgets she’s still alive sometimes. they don’t talk.” why not? “The nurses don’t let her use the phone. she throws shit and forgets where she is.” getting old sucks. back in the day your family would take her to the barn and mercifully shoot her in the back of the head. “i’d want to end her life more humanely. an injection maybe.” is shooting your grandma up with drugs really that much more humane? “you won’t have as much to clean up at least.”
sometimes a train is just a train.
“i hate when people toss garbage on the platform. or piss down here. there’s kids who sit on the train with their backpacks taking up 2 seats.” once you piss on the platform i feel like there’s no going back. you can’t blame the kids though. they have a lot of time to grow up to hate people who take up 2 seats. “who do you blame then? the parents? i never did that when i was a kid. i’m sure a lot of them don’t do it when their parents are around either. it sucks they have to be asked by their mom not to be a dick.” do you think any of them can change? “a handful. maybe. actually no, i think most of them will grow up to be adults who do that shit.” well, i think you’re wrong. when i see an adult playing videos on the train without headphones i think that person’ll never change. when i see a kid i think there’s at least a glimmer of hope. because when i was young i remember pointing and laughing at a homeless lady who was begging for money on the train. she was missing all her limbs. i’m not sure why i did it either. only to be cruel i guess.
as space on the platform becomes more precious, some in the crowd shift toward the support beams keeping the world over our heads.
“do you watch public freak out videos? i was watching one at work where this kid in high school opened the window and got out on the balcony for some reason.” was he suicidal? “nah, he was laughing about it. like it was a joke. the teacher yelled, oh my god no! and the kid fell over. his legs were all fucked up from the fall.” was he still laughing as he fell? “no, he wasn’t still laughing as he fell.”
i’m glad there’s people like that around. “yeah, they could be used as examples for what not to do. then again i don’t want them to suffer. anyone can grow up and change.” didn’t you say once you don’t think that kids who wear their backpacks on the train could change? “………………………….uhm, yes, i think did.” what makes those people on public freak out videos any different? “they’re not. if i said that kids who wear backpacks on the train can’t change, which i trust you i did, then i said that. still, i don’t believe it. i used to do dumb things as a kid as well. so i’m not sure why i said that. sometimes we say things to say things. we might not even believe them. or we do that day. or we’re trying to argue with someone.” or we just want to talk.
the train comes to a screeching halt.
there’s trouble out there. “Chile?” yeah. “i was watching a video about that. Apparently those protests were over trains. think it’s like here. they get delayed a lot but the company keep raising prices.” it’s probably worse over there. at least we’re in america. “yeah. apparently some protestors ran out in the street and burned down a random building. That’s going a little too hard. they should’ve set a train on fire if that’s what they were angry about. what’s the point of burning down an unrelated building?” once a bunch of humans are riled up, there’s not much controlling what they’ll do. don’t you think it must be exciting to be in a mob? one guy throws a bottle and it shatters, then another person kicks a cop in the head, next thing you know you’re setting a building on fire — yeah to send a message, but mostly to not to feel powerless and alone.
“i get what you’re saying. i still think they went too hard by burning down a random building. destroying shit doesn’t make them look good. yeah, i’d get it if they burnt down a train because then it’d make sense, but i hate how mobs have like, no chill, when it comes to these things.” what? don’t you think there’s a time to go hard? even when the outcome might not be perfect? what’s the alternative? “there is none. besides voting, i guess. fuck. has the world always been this way? there probably was never a time without violence. it was just harder to see without internet. i don’t know. shit, i really don’t. every day i’m less confident about what i know and don’t know.”
me too, though would you riot if the same started happening here? “probably not. would you?” I’d be scared to. “same.” In chile there’s videos of cops snorting coke and shooting civilians. The most i’d do is try to help old people from being trampled, or try to stop someone from bleeding out by like wrapping a shirt around the bullet hole. in the very least i’d wanna try to keep them company so they didn’t die alone. but really, who fucking knows? we all think we’re heroes until it’s time to act that way. “crazy how one day we might have to make those choices. i’d like to think i’d save people too. i also wouldn’t wanna get shot.” yeah, that’s the problem. when push comes to shove we all try to stay alive.
“fuck, if i knew this train was going to take so long, i wouldn’t have rushed my cigarette.” didn’t you already have 2 since we left work? “yeah.” not finishing a third won’t kill you. “standing down here might. what were we talking about again?” oh, about what’s happening in the world. i don’t want to think about that anymore though. tomorrow’s finally a day off. “yeah, me neither, and oh shit, you’re right. i almost forgot.” yep, you usually do. “that’s true.” so…did you notice they cleaned that bit of graffiti off that garbage can? “there was graffiti on that garbage can?” yep, there is. well, was. not anymore. “i’m not surprised. but i’m glad it’s gone. anyway, have you ever watched this show called “the last OG?” no, i haven’t. what’s it about?
shoulder-to-shoulder, we wait to squeeze in through the metal doors. Eager to be taken away.