It was close to 6pm and, as usual, the uptown F train was crowded. People on the platform glanced at the subway as it pulled into the station. One of the cars had plenty of standing room. When the doors opened, several people rushed out. Some people walked in, then walked right back out again.
Two ladies rushed through the turnstiles and, upon hearing the announcement, “Stand clear of the closing doors, please,” they dashed into the car. They smiled at each other in congratulations and then looked around.
Seated near the end of the car was a man who appeared to be asleep. His thin frame was lost in two dirty jackets and baggy jeans with tattered hems and a hole in the crotch. Bits of food were caught in his scraggly beard. His legs were splayed out in front of him and his hands, soiled with dirt, were resting on his lap. The odors of sweet alcohol and fetid sweat emanated from him.
New passengers looked at him, their noses crinkled. Saying nothing, they moved as far as they could to the other end of the car. Often this meant taking a mere two steps away.
One of the two ladies was wearing a golden mink coat. An Artsy GM Louis Vuitton bag hung from her wrist and strappy heels that bore the intersecting letters of Chanel were on her feet. She turned to her companion, clad in a white Marc Jacobs Balmacaan raincoat and Jimmy Choo Cosmic platform shoes, and waved her hand in front of her nose.
“It smells terrible in here!” Mink Coat exclaimed, shaking her head. Her dark tresses shifted on her shoulders. “He smells so bad!”
The train rattled as it entered the dark tunnel. A few people turned the pages of their magazines.
Raincoat glanced at the man and stuck out her tongue in disgust. “I know. I don’t think I can stay in this car!”
A man at the other end of the car sneezed. The subway lurched to the left.
“Let’s switch cars at the next stop,” Mink Coat suggested. “It’s hard for me to breathe.”
A woman looked up from her Kindle and glanced at the two ladies. The man next to her suddenly snapped his eyes open when he realized that he was listing to the right.
“That’s a good idea,” Raincoat said, vigorously nodding her head. “He smells worse than trash. I wish the train would hurry up.”
The young man leaning against the door marked with the words “Do not lean on door” plucked his mp3 player out of his pocket and glanced at the screen.
“This is 42nd Street, Bryant Park,” the automated voice announced as the subway burst out of the darkness into the illuminated station. The subway suddenly decelerated. Someone mumbled apologies as he inadvertently bumped into his neighbor.
“Thank God,” Mink Coat said, getting as close to the door as she could. The sleeping man quietly burped.
“Gross,” Raincoat mumbled.
“Do you want to go left or right?” Mink Coat said as the subway came to a halt.
“It doesn’t matter. Just get us away from the stink!”
When the doors slid open, the two Coats stepped out quickly, sighing loudly. The sleeping man shifted in his seat, his chin dropping to chest.
“Stand clear of the closing doors, please.”