by Jeremy Warach
It is a cold, dark Friday evening in November. The train car is half full of people going home from work. Professionals in their suits or business casuals, others more informal, in sweatshirts and jeans.
The vinyl of the seat crunches underneath me as I shift. Looking out the grimy window, the shadowed landscape zips by. I am sitting in one of the backward-facing seats, and the scene outside races away from me.
No one speaks.
The air conditioning hums and hisses and wheezes and blows. The wheels on the tracks rumble and squeal and the engines and machinery thud and clank and boom and heave.
But no one speaks.
Minutes pass. The door to the restroom snicks open and crunches shut. The overhead luggage racks squeak when their mountings twist this way and that as the car sways from one side to the other. Newspapers rustle, and occasionally there is the electric jangle or digital tune of a cell phone ringing.
And no one speaks. Many minutes have passed since I last heard a voice. I glance around me. People are involved in their reading or their sleeping or their staring out the window. But no one speaks.
Until: a sneeze. It sounds too loud to me, out of place. Then, from somewhere near the sneeze, "Bless you."
The PA system crackles, and the conductor's voice announces my stop.
I am pushed against my seat back as the train decelerates. I select "Save" from the menu on my phone, quickly collect my things, and get up from my seat.