17 May 2008

on the train

I'm on the train, in a corner seat next to the door, next to a man with an art portfolio and a rolled up tube of big papers. I'm looking out the window across the way, enjoying the view from what a friend of mine says is "the slowest joke of a train system in the world," but I love it, the way it trundles along among downtown buildings, stopping at stoplights and running alongside the cars on narrow brick streets like an awkward, oversized bus.

The man asks me about my bag, and I tell him I got it in Rwanda, but I don't encourage him, certainly not enough for the monologue he starts in a faded English accent about merengue, which he seems to think has something to do with Africa, and then about Indian drumming and how he drummed for four Be@tles songs and gardened for Jo.hn Lenn0n and Yok0 0n0 and am I an artist? "No," I said, "an attorney," thinking that if anything should quash the artist connection it would be something as prosaic as law, but it does not, because he finds another connection and he tells me that his daughter is studying law, and that if you give yourself over to God, pure love will find you. "I follow a small Indian religion," he said, "but at heart I'm a Christian and always have been."

I haven't gotten a word in edgewise, or sideways, or any ways for five minutes and I'm watching the stops and wishing that my stop was this one instead of the next one. "You become what you associate with," he tells me, "so if you associate with Harley riders, you will end up wanting to wear black leather, or play an instrument if you associate with musicians. The secret is just to give yourself over to God, and he will give you pure love. It's that simple. We used to know the truth about God, but we've lost it. You can see it in the ancient writings, but we don't understand them anymore."

I haven't looked in his direction since the question about the bag, but now he's apologizing for his beer breath, from drinking beer with his pizza at the street fair, he says, and I don't mention that I know the difference between beer breath and hard alcohol breath, and his is the latter.

"You have a nice aura," he says. "You search for the truth, don't you?"

"This is my stop." I say in return, standing up. "It was nice talking to you."

I ignore him when I hear him say, as I stand up to go to the door, "You are gorgeous," and instead I walk straight ahead, out the door, up the shaded street, and into the quiet of the library.

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