The morning F train was crowded, and the familiar ticking anxiety of finding some anchor point came soon after shuffling between the doors. I settled in a small space near the entrance where I interjected my arm under that of a tall, bulky man's, grabbing a crowded pole which he'd all but staked with claim posts, like an asshole.
          The train lurched forward, and after the initial jolt, I attempted, unsuccessfully, to maneuver some room to resume reading. Hindered by the sardine-like conditions, I resigned myself to people watching. The car was quiet, save for the rhythmic hum-and-drum of the tracks, until a man behind me cut in, noting aloud his love for being tall. I turned slightly and stole a glancing peek at him; tall indeed, and looking to be in his late twenties. He casually braced himself against the ceiling with a hand. His comment was directed toward a young woman standing beside him, more average in height, seemingly around the same age, and whose only feature I could make out was the wavy, mid-back length espresso hair facing toward me.
          "How tall are you?" she asked.
          "Six-two," he replied eagerly.
          Their conversation ebbed in-and-out of my attention. There was a familiar air to it but tempered by the reservations of new acquaintances. They offered their benign opinions, wry ostentations, playful ripostes; feeling out the others' boundaries.
          Somehow, the banter had snaked its way to an imitative jingle of Drake's "Hold On, We're Going Home."
          "I've got my eyes on you," he sang, leaving open the next line for the girl.
          Here, the conversation took an odd turn when she coyly brought up an esoteric anecdote, cautious to avoid going into too much detail. She referred to it half-seriously as a "movement" her friends had all recently participated in.
          "I think I mentioned it to you before."
          "What is that again?"
          She was shy about answering, admitting some puritanical reservation.
          "I feel weird talking about it with all these people around."—though she'd been the one to bring up the subject. The man leaned down to her, and she whispered an explanation into his ear.          
          "Oh yeah! That. I remember you telling me about that. Did you get one too?" he asked.
          "No, but Michelle bought one for me. She says you aren't 'sexually liberated' unless you have one,'" the girl explained, mocking her friend's non-ironic stance. It was clear at this point that she was talking about buying vibrators with her friends, which gave her roundabout admission of owning one a desperately faux prudish tact. She was performing a balancing act of flirtation, avoiding on the one side the fastidious virgin and on the other the prodigious slut, presenting a tepid medium to her new friend until his endorsement could lend one side validity—sexually liberated...        
          The topic shifted after that, both parties growing conscious of how obvious the secret had become. A few more banalities were exchanged before we arrived at the man's stop, one station ahead of mine. He leaned in and hugged the girl.
          "I'll see you later."
          "See ya," he replied before turning to follow the stream of other passengers debarking at Bryant Park.
          When the train started again, the girl had relocated herself against the doors, fading back into the quiet, keep-it-to-yourself atmosphere that filled the car. The transition back to anonymity must have felt slow going as the lingering attention settled on her stark shift in demeanor, for the doors had barely closed before her phone was out and drawing her attention into its blissfully hazy glow—signal be damned.
          At the next stop, I followed the crowd out with the girl only a few passengers behind, though far enough that I quickly lost sight of her in the migration from the platform. As I trudged routinely up the steps, I rehearsed the flirtatious episode in my mind, turning over the awkward conclusion that I couldn't quite shake.
          Drake be the type of dude that'll remind a girl about getting a vibrator.

Mike LinComment