On the 7 train

May 4, 2009

An hour on the subway from one borough to another, with a carful of strangers.


I finish reading Disgrace.


Behind me a loud, clear voice says, “You don’t own me. You think you do, but you don’t. Listen to me, sir, I ask you to listen to me. I have a voice. I am here. You can’t come here and try to fuck with me and not expect a response. This is my response. Listen to me, sir, because I have a voice.”

Some people move away. Others turn in their seats to stare. I turn around as well, expecting a conclusion to the performance, movement up and down the train car for change, but the young man standing by the door has closed his mouth and is now glaring at the seats across from him. The object of his glare: deer-in-headlights tourists. I don’t know what they’d done to offend him, but I do wish he’d finished his poem.


My sister texts me that she will be late to the restaurant for lunch, but I barely take notice, too distracted by the fact that I can’t concentrate on The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis. I’d also brought along this novel for the ride to Flushing, as I was nearly done with Disgrace—finish one book, I’d happily thought, and then start another. What folly! Reading for pleasure cannot begin and end so distinctly, not when the pleasure is distilled into pain and astonishment, when the book ends, quietly, on a changing world and on the narrator discovering a foreign thing called love. Close one book, and then open another? How arrogant.


I call my mother to tell her that my sister will be late. She says it’s all right, to come to the apartment first. There, I will give flowers to my mother and father for their wedding anniversary, and I will give my father, for his birthday, a plant with a fisherman sculpted at its base, and then later I will give my mother my Little Camera That Could because she asks for it, and after that she will chastise me for my plans to send gifts to the Chinese cousins, insisting that she understands Chinese customs and that I do not, and then later still, at the restaurant finally, I will eat my rice and think about the book I couldn’t bring myself to start reading and the one I’d finally finished, whose last line I’d peeked at weeks ago and had not understood, until I was within ten pages of the end, exactly how it would devastate me and how it had devastated many before me.


3 Responses to “On the 7 train”

  1. lucas Says:

    The mere thought of someone else getting to the end of that book–enough to stir a dormant sorrow in me.

    For me, too, the end came on a train, the LIRR.

    To finish that and merrily proceed to the next? Impossible.

  2. jadepark Says:

    omg i have found you again! another blog! 🙂 Disgrace is awesome. (that sounded wrong).

  3. wmc Says:

    L, it’s very special when a book is finished during a journey, I think—the start-stop motion of the vehicle, the return to reality only to find the reality altered. (Where is my little notebook for scribbling pages and pages of response post-read?)

    J, I’m glad you found me. 🙂

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