Listen While Reading: Thousand Eyes //Of Monsters And Men.
It was around three in the morning on the Sunday before Labor Day, and there were only a few people left on the N train of the New York City transit, which was heading towards downtown Manhattan.
For the most part it was a pretty quiet ride, apart for the screeches and clicks of the doors as they flew open and closed whenever we would reach a station, the automated “Please stay away from the doors” announcement that followed it each time. The other real noise inside the train was coming from a young man who, for whatever reason, was jumping up and down trying to do flips on the handlebars attached to the roof of the train, and his friend who found his antics hilarious; their echoing laughter left to linger in the air like thick fog on a cold morning.
Among the quiet ones, there was a young woman resting in the corner, with earphones on and a baseball cap covering her eyes. The other was a middle-aged man, sitting alone. He wasn’t doing anything in particular that would grab my attention, however, he was sitting right across from me, and on a boring train ride with a dead phone in my hand not able to provide some kind of distraction or entertainment, I kept finding my eyes landing on him.
But the more glances I took, the more I noticed the interesting little details about him which, without my knowledge, must have drawn me to him in the first place. The man had dark hair, a bit of stubble, and tired brown eyes. He was wearing glasses, a shiny black suit, and an undone tie hanging down around his neck.
Although we were above ground, flying past towering buildings that sparkled even amidst the dark, early hours of the morning, all he seemed to be interested in looking at was the dirty floor. Occasionally he’d look up, but never made eye contact with anyone, his eyes just dancing around all the signs that hung above the windows.
It was during one of those few times in which I noticed that he was also wearing a somber expression on his face, with the corners of his mouth turned down. His body looked completely worn out; his back a little hunched over and head hanging down low. Every so often, one of his hands would reach up to rub his temples. The other hand was clenched tight into a fist, and it took only a few minutes for me to figure out why.
He opened up his hand and I saw that resting on his palm was a small diamond ring. I only saw it for a few seconds, as he just made a face at the thing and quickly closed his hand back up again, shoving it into his pocket.
It was only shortly after that moment, as I sat there across from him, wondering what happened to him to that night; what the reason was that this man found himself sad and alone, sitting on a subway train at three in the morning with — what looks like — an engagement ring clenched in his fist, that the train came to a stop.
The doors once again opened, this time at a station on 5th Ave. A few entered, a couple exited and the man slowly stood up, moving like he was being pulled down by the weight of a heavy heart. It was as though he didn’t want to have to deal with a sad reality that would soon grab ahold of him the instant he stepped off the train.
A couple seconds later, he took a deep breath and walked out, the train doors shutting and pulling away behind him. And just like that, the sad, quiet man with the ring that had ended up sitting in his pocket rather than on someone’s finger, was gone.
© 2015 Reef Magazine