April 10, 2003

Subway Vision

By Tenzin McGrupp © 2003

We tried not to laugh, but the young kid sitting in the corner was amusing two of his female friends by answering their questions in a lively Jamaican accent. He was no older than fourteen or fifteen years old, but he nailed the accent perfectly. I assumed he must have Jamaican relatives, or lived close by to a Jamaican family, because his stellar performance held my lazy attention for several minutes. I pretended not to be listening while trying not to laugh. It was tougher than I thought.

"Do you know what stop this is?" one of the young ladies asked.

"Me can’t seeeeee," he muttered.

They laughed, their shrieks shooting throughout the subway, their bodies shaking, limbs flailing. Betty buried her head into my shoulder and tried to stop from laughing.

"Why not?"

"Me sees wha me wants to seeeee!" he sneered.

A couple of harried passengers exited and a seventy year old black, blind lady with a worn cane shuffled in, and sat down across from me. It was raining all day and the aqua blue sweat pants that she was wearing were wet from mid shin to her ankles. She methodically unfolded her cane and placed it in her lap. The young man continued his afternoon entertainment spot on the L train, courting new commuters, and I watched the blind lady as she listened attentively with her eyes tightly shut. She too was holding back a bubble of laughter when the kid spoke in his Jamaican accent.

"Ev’ry day is irie day mah pants."

Even some of the other riders started to laugh and snicker as the train made its way from Brooklyn to Manhattan. I continued to stare at the blind woman. She sat quietly, counting the stops, and I tried to figure out what she was thinking about. Betty pulled out her camera from her bag and prepared to take a picture of the Jamaican kid, but when she saw me fascinated with the blind woman, she turned her attention to the blind woman as well. Slowly Betty picked up her camera, concentrated for a second, focusing on the blind woman’s face. When she was ready to take the shot the blind lady abruptly opened her eyes, which spooked Betty, who gasped and she almost dropped her camera. I freaked out and jumped back in my seat as I instinctively peered into her beaming eyes unable to look away. One of them looked like a shiny gray eyeball that reflected the fluorescent subway lights, which gave parts of it an amber glow. She struggled to keep her other eye open, a squished grayish marble with yellow tints.

The subway pulled into Union Square and I was taking deep breaths. It was just coincidence, I told myself. She had no clue we were checking her out. A nervous Betty put her camera away as we prepared to get off and the young kid turned to me and said, "Me sees wha me wants to see."

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.

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