Everyone’s going places. Different places. Fast. But once you step on the subway, you have no choice but to stand still, in the midst of all that motion. And for a while, the speed of your life is out of your control. Usually you have no phone service, so you’re forced to really be alone–with the car-full of strangers around you, that is.
And those strangers are everyone: a little sample slice of all of the people in the world that you will never actually meet. There are people in dress pants and skinny jeans and saggy jeans and yoga pants and people who aren’t wearing much at all. You overhear conversations in every language. You overhear bits of conversations about stocks and drugs and literature, and bits of conversations that you can’t seem to fit into any context, but you wonder the possibilities for the rest of the ride.
Sometimes you end up squished up against these other people’s bodies, but you can still be strangers in this intimacy. Sometimes you end up having conversations with people, but it’s not an expectation–no obligatory small talk.
Because besides not caring, everyone has accepted that they will never see these people again. The odds of you all stepping on to the same car on the same train at the same time were minuscule, and after the subway doors open in a few minutes, this same mix of people will probably never exist again.
But that’s okay. You step off the train with just a little taste of everyone’s humanity. And you get on with life.