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The Last Hours of July 4th

August 6, 2014

On the late train home, a young man high on many things pounds, ranting, on the between car doors with laughter in his tone, then introduces the thunder of the tunnel and enters our car and doesn’t stop talking and screaming and laughing. He throws derogatory words in every direction including his own seeming impervious and causing the coping that everyone else in silent agreement buckles down to. He sounds lost. He yells out the door at each stop. He rails at someone for being a faggot. He squeals at a woman blaming her for not sleeping with him because he’s a young, black nigger. He prattles on about Chinese niggers slanting his eyes with his fingers and naming every Asian celebrity he can think of.
The quiet of my book that was going to take me home has to be abandoned and I watch all his moves in the reflection of the end-of-car windows. I consider doing the between car switch, figuring I’d have to go at least two cars in case he followed me, and if he followed me to the second, well, that’s all I had in me.
When he finally uses the doors to exit at 42nd Street, the first sign I see of his replacement is a warm-brown, thick wooden cane, and an older man in an arabic hat and full-brown pants and shirt sits down in the seat across from me. We exchange eye contact. Before long his eyes are closing. His cane is contoured and the swirling browns of a varnished branch. His skin is dark, but not deeply. His mustache has just enough grin at each end to make him look almost colonial and his eyebrows are expressive and watchful even as he gives into the day’s tired. He is every ethnicity and era together.
I get back to the quiet wonder of my reading.  My book is called The Magicians.

 

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