I found myself beneath the city, riding home on the subway with the homeless, the aimless, the guilty, the silent. Beyond the windows rushed darkness. Cold light filled the car. Eyes avoided eyes.
Secretly, without betraying my curiosity, I studied the late night passengers who rode with me.
Several feet away in a wheelchair sat an extremely old man. He wore a tattered bathrobe. His head had fallen to his chest. He was tipping forward. I thought he might spill onto the floor at any moment.
Across from the old man, two riders sat with lowered eyes.
One had long peroxide hair, blue fingernails, hollow eyes and gaunt cheeks–a prostitute. She appeared to be twenty going on fifty. Hands trembling. A meth addict.
The other was a man whose hardened face and shaved head were covered with crude tattoos. Etched in prison, I surmised.
I was careful that neither noticed me.
The prostitute wore a tiny skirt and heavy winter jacket. Both of her legs were scarred. I wondered how she received those scars and how she might have smiled when she began down her path. Through what turns had she come to be seated there? Did she ever think about her future?
The man with the tattoos wore an angry expression that seemed permanent. I tried to imagine the crimes he might have committed. His mask of tattoos contained a clown, a skull and a gun, and painful words that would never be erased.
I lifted my gaze a fraction to observe others who rode after midnight. I found more of the same: eyes aimed nowhere.
Where were these people going? To what end did their lives lead?
As I looked on critically, I realized these late night riders of the subway were no different than anyone else. Moving through time hoping to find a place where they might be whole.
These lives had been reduced to futile existence. Drifting through a black tunnel unseen. Riding forward, station after station after station after station, never arriving.
How many in this world ride with no destination? I wondered.
What is the good of people?
The old man drooping in the wheelchair suddenly toppled onto the floor.
Two passengers jumped up.
The young prostitute leaned over and reached toward the old man with her trembling hand.
“Are you okay, bro?” asked the man with the tattoos, as he helped the old man back up into the wheelchair.
I did nothing.