Underground blues.


I put my shoulder to the stubbornness of the door and finally engulf myself inside with a wind-blown furry hat. I’m surrounded by depressing grays and muddy browns. I slide my ticket in the slot with some anguish of the barrier refusing to let me pass. It happened before. Something about me not pushing the thing correctly. I feel dumb, sometimes.

I get in the subway’s belly by racing down the stairs as if I have something to prove. A musician plays the cacophone over my blaring headphones. I take a five in my pocket to impress him. I realize it’s a twenty that is slowly leaving my fingers. Too proud to take it back, I tell myself that at least, the virtuoso will be grateful. But he barely nods his head at the sight of my hourly rate resting on the blue velvet. I feel really dumb.

There’s a crowd on the pier. As always. I place my body in a strategic way to facilitate my entry. The big mute TV on the other side tells me to be afraid of everything. The train is coming. I imagine hands behind my back violently throwing me on the tracks. My shoulder blades tense in anticipation. I must stop reading the tabloids. I’m so dumb, sometimes.

I slip in a little childhood nostalgia. Those three organic notes when the cars were put in motion, the grilled rubber smell, the pristine all around me … Today, it oozes limestone and decrepit all along the walls. I elaborate a disaster scenario where the tunnel collapses under the pressure of the water and get almost scared for a second. Yup, I’m dumb.

The doors open and no one knows how to human anymore. Some hurry to get out, some hurry to sneak in, some hurry to sit near the exit, some hurry to press their God damn huge bag pack in everyone’s face. The doors close on the herd stinking of wet synthetic fur. Is the guy behind me feeling my butt?  I look discreetly under my arm to check, ready to scold: It’s the head of a toddler stuck between my backside and the thigh of his father. I quickly scoot over to give him space. Geez, I’m dumb!

Transfer. I sprint on the yellow path pressed between the metal of the purring wagons and hoards of goose feathers coats. The window is short to get passed all these people before the mechanical monster resumes its course and propels me into the void. I swoop over to get to the green line. The soft French speaking voice in the speakers bounces off the concrete to warn us of a slowdown.  I pray to the commute Gods to let it not be on the green line. The voice continues «…sur la ligne orange…” and my relief is beyond disproportionate. Again, so dumb.

While swaying and holding the bacteria ridden bar, I observe the cultural mosaic around me. I marvel at the cosmopolitan metropolitan. Skins are yellow, black, brown or ashy like me (I’m hungover). Heads are blonds, frizzy, turbaned or Montreal Canadians woolen toqued.  All together we ignore each other in harmony.  I notice a beautiful woman in a hijab at my left. She stares at me, intensely. I look elsewhere wondering if I have offended her unintentionally. I feel her eyes piercing my temple.

The image of an explosive belt crosses my mind. It screams “Allahu Akbar !!” in my skull. The veiled one rises and accosts me. Nowhere to run. She talks to me about a kindergarten. I’m confused. She reminds me that our sons went there. I suddenly recognize her. Must be well over fifteen years ago! Naila, right? How are you?

We catch up on lost time between two stations. I must get off, it’s my stop. I wave my hand good-bye. She sits back down and smiles at me. I smile back as she goes through the tunnel.

But it’s really to hide just how I dumb I feel right now…




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