I shoved my way down the escalator in a flurry of elbows and knees and people telling me to “watch where you’re going.” I heard the subway pulling into the station as I slammed my thigh through the turnstile.
“Would you like to take a moment to look over some of these goods? They’re a fair price, good quali-”
I knocked the guy out of my way. I couldn’t miss this train. I didn’t know he was selling those quilted blankets to pay for his mother’s memorial service. His box slammed to the ground, then my feet were slamming too.
Slamming, slamming, slamming against the cement floor as I rushed to the platform. 1, 2, 3, 4 – there it was!
The doors were closing, drawing shut, but … my hand was in the way. Thank goodness.
“Sorry,” I mumbled as I shoved myself into the already overcrowded car. I wasn’t.
All around me, people grumbled and sighed and rolled their eyes. I grumbled and sighed and rolled my eyes along with them.
Somewhere in the back, a baby started wailing. I glared at the little thing, all swaddled in blue. Then I glared at its mother, because she wasn’t stopping it quickly enough. I didn’t know it had colic.
I yanked my phone from my pocket, attempting to look like I was terribly busy replying to a very important e-mail that couldn’t wait. I was actually playing “Angry Birds.”
Beside me, an old man let loose a great, rattling, wet cough. Around him, people showed varying degrees of disgust on their faces. As one, those of us surrounding him set about oh-so-subtly rearranging ourselves so that those who hadn’t yet realized the man’s infirmity would be nearest to him.
What I didn’t know was that the man had Stage 4 lung cancer and was completely non-contagious. I didn’t know he was on the way to the hospital to be admitted for end-of-life care.
I scored a 1460 on my next round of “Angry Birds.” Then a 2350 when I replayed the level. I still didn’t get the third star though. I hit replay again.
The subway came to a screeching halt as it pulled into the next station. The old man and the mother got off, along with some others, only to be replaced by a flood of people twice as large.
A middle-aged woman made a beeline for my pole and grabbed it with both hands, knuckles white as they locked into a death-grip. Her left foot was placed squarely on my right as she planted her feet shoulder width apart.
I gritted my teeth. “Those are Gucci,” I spat.
The woman didn’t react. The subway took off. I yanked my foot out from under hers, causing her to tilt precariously. She shrieked in surprise and struggled to regain her balance.
This time, I didn’t react. I just went back to flinging birds at pigs.
I didn’t know this woman was severely claustrophobic. I didn’t know how much of an achievement it was for her to be on the subway at all.
I finally got the third star. Level 16-B, here I come.
At the front of the car, I heard a little girl – maybe two or three – say, “I want to show the train to Tony when he gets back!” Her parents promptly burst into tears. Three people shushed them, and an uncountable number glared at them. I was one of the shushers.
None of us noticed their black funeral clothes. I didn’t know they were on their way to church to say a final good-bye to their son, Tony.
The next stop was mine, and I shoved my way out the door in much the same fashion I’d shoved my way in. I didn’t even stop to think about the man I elbowed in the stomach; I didn’t know he had 117 stitches holding the wound in his abdomen closed. I didn’t know that his injury was the result of a hate crime. Or that it was his third.
I didn’t know that the teenage girl I cut in front of at the turnstiles was moving so slowly because she had a prosthetic leg.
I didn’t know that the woman who grabbed me on the street did so because she was searching for her daughter, who looked just like me.
I didn’t know that the guy I flipped the bird to for stepping on my heels was blind. I didn’t know because I didn’t turn around.
I didn’t know the rest because I didn’t bother to care.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.