Citizen Dale

I was on the subway yesterday which is at this stage, less a necessity than it once was. If anyone ever needs a break from hum drum sanity and the every day, spend 20 minutes or so with the people. I dare you.

I'm there on the train. You know me - I'm the one wearing the headphones, clearly making an effort to avoid contact. There are many others just like me. Connection through isolation - it warms me.

I'm also the one that everyone in need of a dosage check feels they should talk to. Now because I'm ridiculous, I engage with these people when I should be moving to a new seat, ignoring them or simply giving them a taste of my own mental illness.

I'm holding a take out beverage cup and sipping from it as I listen to a song called Shasta by Vienna Teng and trying to figure out just what she's singing about. Sip, listen, sip, repeat.

An elderly Indian man sits down close to me. He is dressed in a security officer's uniform, a decent enough looking chap and good for him, working hopefully just to keep busy and not because he needs to.

He glances at me and my cup. He twitches almost imperceptibly. I know this twitch though. He needs to say something. To me.

He does. I see his lips move and feign surprise while lifting the headphones out of my ear.
Pardon me? Did you say something?
Yes, I'm just wondering - how many coffees do you think one can consume per day safely?
Well, I don't know. I go for a quizzical expression here.
Well I see you drinking coffee there and wondered what you thought. Well, I think, everything in moderation. There's a pause while he considers this, smiles and then he nods his agreement.
And this is tea by the way.
Oh tea? Well, now there are a lot of health benefits to tea. Very good. Someone I know at work drinks 11 cups of coffee each day.
That doesn't sound so good to me. He looks away, I replace my headphones.

At the next stop, an elderly gentleman gets on and sits next to my Indian pal. He twitches very perceptibly and says something in my general direction. The headphones come out again, a mildly strained but still polite pardon me? comes out of me.
Hello, how are you?
Fine thanks.
He gives me a convulsive smile.

My coffee Indian gets out at the next stop without so much as a look backward. I feel slighted that he hasn't said good bye to me. My shaking new best friend says something in my direction again.
Hello, how are you?
(Still) Fine thanks. A girl takes the Indian's place and I decide to look away as I hear Shakes repeat several times to her
Hello, how are you? while she ignores him.

Meanwhile, back in my head, Sinead O'Connor gets her reggae 'Curly Locks' groove going on. Another tune I'm not really sure I understand but then do I really need to know what every lyric that blows in my ear is all about? Nah, I can just listen without hearing for now.

My concentration drifts to hoping for a safer somewhere to rest my eyes. Where to look? Not at the very large lady wearing a spandex skirt stretched beyond apology. Not at the man with the desperate eyes who tells himself he wants to find a job but begs himself for a drink. Not at the rest of the characters who look like extras in a movie I'm not being paid enough to star in.

I'm ready to leave this behind. I'm on my way somewhere swell. Not all of these folks are. Oh gosh, I feel almost human for a second. I pause and turn to my friend Shakes and mouth good bye. He smiles and says you have a good day and just for a moment, he stops trembling. Hope? For a moment, yes.

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