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


Casualty of Love