The Blue Line

Laura Augustaitis

I was someone blending in with those who also wanted a seat on the train. The train doors wheezed open and I darted into it, holding my possessions close. Seeing a place that was empty-bodied, I gripped the bar attached to the top of the seat in front of the one to be mine and used it as leverage to get into it before the person who also had their eyes on it was able to take it. I rather prefer the seats without fabric in a train, because although they’re both dirty all the same, in my mind I feel as though it’s cleaner without the extra material. The design is tacky anyway, with a blue background and erratic, colorful shapes. I tried not to think about how many people had touched the same bar I had just put my hands on moments ago and wondered when I would finally remember to buy hand sanitizer.  

I got one glance of a small, half-bald Filipino man running with a dark, brown satchel, strapped across his body rather than resting on one shoulder, in the lane between the seats before he basically jumped into the one next to me. He was out of breath, trying to push slowly through his nose in a way where someone was trying to hide it. I felt fortunate that I didn’t have to stand, considering it was about an hour train ride to Rosemont. My feet hurt like hell from wearing the wrong shoes to walk miles in on busy streets, and my mind was tired from too many city stimuli.  

I tried not to make eye contact with people around the train as I avoided looking at my phone with a 3% battery. With so many people, I found that train rides are more quiet than loud with conversation. Those who try are usually stopped by the sometimes violently loud ride, especially under the echoing tunnels. Closing my eyes that were dry from wearing my contacts in too long, my mind catches conversation. The couple, possibly in their twenties, supposedly both have bruises from crowd surfing at a concert together while holding hands. I imagine how they crushed sweating people beneath them and pulled tightly on one another until their nails scraped against each other’s skin. 

I felt soft pressure on my left arm. Slightly startled, I looked in the man’s direction to see him sleeping, and he began to slink more towards me. I thought of how I’ve only ever seen this in movies or in pictures, but now it was happening to me. My dilemma began. I wondered what his stop was, if he was going to miss it, and whether or not I had to courage to wake up a tired, old man. 

I was preoccupied with this in my mind up until I was about three stops away from mine. I felt bad for the man. I felt bad for the fact that he was so tired that he fell asleep resting his full weight onto a stranger’s side (even though I didn’t mind) and that he sat next to someone who didn’t have it in them to make sure he got off the train at the right time. 

I had to get ready for my exit in two stops. I gently searched through my purse with my hand until I grabbed the familiar material of the lanyard to my keys. Dragging them through all my items, they came out with a pair of earphones tangled onto them. I tried to jingle my keys more loudly on purpose, and I surely began to move more in my seat. A fast and short breath came from the man in way where you were close to drooling in your sleep but suddenly were able to wake up just in time. I tried to see him from the corner of my eye as he frantically realized where he was, made sure he had his things, and full on bolted towards the just opened train doors. I saw him run just a few more steps as the door closed and the train that I was on started moving again. I wondered about the man and if he was ok.