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Subway God This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     With blue, uncertain, stumbling buzz,

Between the light and me;

And then the window failed, and then

I could not see to see.

- Emily Dickinson

I spotted him immediately after he stepped onto the train. This night began no different from any other as I took my seat in the corner of the last car. The train was crammed to its fullest capacity with busy, tired, ignorant people who thought themselves so important. Always in a frantic rush to get somewhere and do something yet so swift to forget where they were going and why. A thousand different worlds, ignorant of each other’s existence, trapped within the bubble of their selfish problems, refusing to acknowledge the world around them. So unique and yet so helplessly the same.

I sit in my corner with my eyes shut. I’m different. I don’t need to look to see. I don’t need to reach out to feel. This is my gift, and this is my curse. There is a woman near me. She is helplessly tired and does not care about anything around her. Where is she going? What is she looking for? She is a nobody. The train stops and the woman gets off. An entire world, filled with happiness and sorrow, victories and defeats, has left us. Yet the crowd quickly closes the gap and nothing but a trace of her tiredness is left behind.

Thousands of people pass through this ignorant routine every night. Thousands of people wasting precious minutes of their lives doing meaningless deeds. Thousands of people, and not one stops to look around and ask why they live to maintain this cycle and maintain this cycle to live. Every night it is the same, and every night I am here. Seeking what I’ve lost all hope of finding. Scanning souls but finding nothing. Waiting for a change in this world of permanence. This is a duty one does not resign from.

I spotted him immediately after he stepped onto the train. My eyes remained shut yet an unfamiliar sensation filled every cell of my body. The change in the ambiance was so intense that I felt as if I had been hit with a tidal wave that knocked me off my feet and threw me onto the shore, gasping for air. I felt my heart beat heavily as I sought the source of this sensation, and to this grave beat I opened my eyes. I saw him in an instant, standing near the exit, leaning on the rail.

A man in his late 30s, whose features were so familiar I had no chance of remembering where I had seen them. Surrounded by people on all sides, he seemed to be standing alone. Trembling, I tried to read his aura and realized he lacked one. He was different not because of something he thought or felt but because of what he did not. Never have I failed to gain insight into a person’s thoughts and desires through their eyes. But this man’s sight was so pure that it seemed to carry no personal desire.

For the first time, I was looking at a man who seemed to be viewing his surroundings from a third-party view while taking absolutely no part in it. He seemed to be looking at no one specific and yet at the entire car. The train came to a stop and a mob of people leaped for the door, hiding his figure from view.

Breaking loose from my trance I leaped up, for the first time taking part in this hateful cycle, and pushed my way through the crowd to where I had seen him standing.

He was not there, but I felt the trace of his presence as strongly as if he were leading me through the crowd. Blindly following this phantom, I traveled from one car to the next. Catching glimpses of his figure, afraid to believe, I began to realize that this was it.

I could not say when it was that we left the subway since I had given up my sense of time along with many others. Terrified to lose him, I quickly discovered that to feel his presence I needed to clear my mind of everything and let the light lead me. I don’t know how we came to where we were or how much time had passed, but I found myself walking down a dim alley. The trees towered on both sides and a tapered, rocky road ran to where the darkness hid it. I will never forget the silence that hung in the air or the soft, warm wind that moved through the trees. He walked ahead, just close enough for me to see the shine of his loose, white chemise through the darkness. Fearlessly, he strolled farther and farther into the darkness of the alley. I could not hear his footsteps yet dry leaves and twigs shifted and cracked under my feet. He did not seem to notice that he was being followed, yet somehow I knew he was aware of me.

I never lost my faith and now I was rewarded. Living every moment of my life in an eternal anticipation, I awaited the glorious moment of our salvation. And now, walking behind this man whose return I had waited for all my life, for the first time ever I finally felt safe in this ignorant, pitiable, menacing world. It would all change now. We had sinned enough to earn forgiveness. We had proven to be incapable of the expectations. We had destroyed enough to gain creation.

Why are you following me? The question arose in my mind more clearly than if it were being asked aloud. With unknown senses I felt the anger, pity and disappointment in these words. I have learned how to read auras and sense the emotions and desires through people’s voices and glances. But never had I been the victim of these mind trespasses and never had I my soul felt so open. I wanted to stop, but realized my legs were no longer under my control and so they kept walking. I remembered now where it was I had seen this face. A face that varies from person to person and yet remains as one.

Why? it was no longer a question but a demand.

Because I want this world to change. Because I want to be alive. I did not speak, yet I knew I was heard. Not all prayers remain unanswered.

This world is what you made it to be. You are alive.

One person can never change the world. And no two people will agree on the changes. What kind of life is it where nobody knows why they are living any longer? I wondered.

There must always be a why if there is a what.

I suddenly felt hopeless. Why had we left the city, the people who needed His help so much? Why were we heading farther and farther away from the world that was so tired of waiting? I wanted to run, to catch up to Him, to shout for help.

Why are you following me? I felt the deadly tiredness in the question.

Because I have waited for you all my life. Because they have been waiting for you too, whether they know it or not. Because you have to help them or destroy them. You are here to help them, are you not?

Can’t you see I’m walking away and toward you? came his words.

Only then did I realize the precision of that fact. He came and He saw, and what He saw made Him want to leave. To leave because in all these years we have managed to change the world around us so greatly and yet have failed to change what was in our hearts. Fear and anger burst into me as I realized that I could do nothing and that once again I would be alone in this gray world. I searched my heart for a question to ask, for a prayer to be answered.

Why? I felt my whole body turn into the query. I could think of nothing else.

Because they are not ready.

It is a funny thing to hear what you already know but do not want to accept. We torment ourselves with ignorance, and live in lies, knowing that once truth is exposed all hopes will cease to exist. “They are not ready,” I repeat in an echo. “We are not ready.”

“Shall I then spend the rest of my life waiting?”

There were no footprints left on the sand where He walked, although I felt my feet sink deeply into its cool grains. Sand? I raised my eyes from the ground to realize we were no longer walking down the narrow alley. I was standing on a beach and there was nothing around me, just dark water ahead. The black sky united with the water and I felt as if I were deprived of the third dimension of height. “I can reach the sky,” I whispered. It was just that suddenly, I no longer wanted to.

I was no longer able to see him, but felt no panic of loss. I felt his presence nearer than ever, just as surely as I knew: it was not for long.

“I want to go with you.” Not a prayer. Not a question. Just the truth.

Impossible.

I never imagined such a word existed for you.

It doesn’t. It exists for you.

Why?

Because you are not ready.

The wind blew over my body, piercing me with its cold touch. Silence hung around me, in the emptiness of the air, the blackness of the water, and the absence of the sky.

“So you are leaving us?” I asked, quietly but out loud. I wanted to hear my voice, to break the spell of this silence. But silence became my answer.

There was nothing more to say. People imagine having so many questions they want answered. But it’s not the “whats” but the “whys” that we desire to understand, and that answer we have failed to answer. I was alone once again, and so was everyone else who was left somewhere far behind me, on the other side of the alley’s darkness. And glancing through the shield of my warm tears, far across the waters, I thought I saw a figure of a man walking to where the darkness met the sky, every step taking him farther and farther away from our world.

“Be careful,” I heard someone’s hoarse voice say near my ear. I jerked at the ugliness of this voice. It was too realistic. It was too close. Suddenly the breezy shore seemed so far away. I tried to break loose, but as if in reverse sequence. I felt myself dragged back through the alley, through the narrow streets, under ground - I opened my eyes to see a dark-faced man leaning over me. He was holding onto the rails, yet I felt a trace of the presence of his hand in my pocket, where my wallet had been. “Be careful,” he repeated, as I stared into his pupils filled with sarcasm and ridicule. I closed my eyes. I could no longer stand to look. “You never know who may step onto the train.” I heard his advice before the crowd concealed him from my view.

I am alone. I am no different, I look but I fail to see. I reach out but I fail to feel. This is our gift, and this is our curse. I’m just a man who fell asleep on a city subway.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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