Train Ride to Harlem
They coldly sat on the long gray bench
caught in an animated conversation
as locations passed by. The neighborhoods
flashed by behind them subliminally signaling
how far we’ve travelled together,
how much farther we have to go.
I was reading my book trying to escape the city
but despite how diligently I stared at the page
I instinctively listened in as they bickered. They
were having a private conversation on a public stage.
They bickered about the intricacies of dating.
What does it mean to date someone? When
is dating born from the loins of hanging out? How
do know to go from casual to exclusive? Is
there a difference between kicking it and dating? What
do these words mean in the scheme of all things love?
With every point she made he countered. She
was determined to be unique, to explicitly
express the fact that life taught her to endow
these words differently. Her views were not
how everyone else saw it, but he saw it the same.
He used common vernacular to restate what she
was communicating. She was caught on words,
while he argued meaning. Is their differences
tied to their word choice though the definitions
were the same or were they speaking from
vantage points of Mars and Venus? Or
is it truly that she is an odd bird viewing it all
differently while perched on a higher branch?
They spoke over each other; as the tones
escalated I hoped that they didn’t notice
that I was audience to this scene trying
to understand what was happening. I
couldn’t even turn the page; my eyes glazed
over the same line and my ears strained.
The topic was innocent enough but the sound
of steel on steel, of fast wind, and of others
was not enough to drown out their conversation.
How heated was this debate about to become?
Would someone need to intervene? Why
were they so passionate about this definition? What
value did the word “date” have on their lives? Who
were these two fascinating people to the other?
They spoke of others they had love
so surely they weren’t lovers. Were
they even friends? Or were they merely
colleagues that got off on philosophical
debates, trying to understand the world by
dissecting it one word, one item at a time?
I listened intently while reading my book
hoping that they didn’t realize that I never
flipped the page during all these stops
as the back dropped changed. Who could?
I was intrigued… I was caught in the climax
of this publicly staged performance…
And then she delicately, subtly placed
her hand on his leg. And he asked,
“but what made me so different?”
And she explained, “Your approach
was the game changer. You took
your time with me.” And it became clear.
They had a beautiful moment and then
her hand moved away and the bickering
commenced, my curiosity quenched. And
we three carried on with our days. The
neighborhoods continued to flash by
subliminally signaling how far we’ve travelled
together, how much further we had to go.
© 2016 Dara Kalima