Place: If You See Something
Submission by Alex Testere, first-time contributor.
Alex Testere will be playing the role of THE INGÉNUE in this year’s performance of “Why Do I Live in New York?”. You may find him tucked safely inside a sweater on his fire escape, or talking to a Stevie Nicks record over a concoction of cardamom pods. He revels in voracious daydreams, opaque paint, Oxford commas, and the clumsy stumbles of a tongue with a task.
The Subway is a magical, magical place. The sweating masses, skittering rats, incessant saxophonists — all naturally a breeding ground for … romance? I’m not talking about I-love-yous and eternal vows, or even first dates out at that swanky bar you’ve been meaning to take someone to. The romance of the Subway is softer, quieter, and rarely makes its presence fully known but in the afterthought of a fleeting encounter, after the train has moved along and you’ve found yourself with a ten-minute walk home to reminisce on that intimate stranger with the hairy wrists.
There are few places in New York City that provide as consistent a random sample of city-dwellers as the Subway. Huge city, huge crowd, instantly reduced to 25 people on a Subway car. Now our sample is not scientifically “random” on all experimental counts; one must take into account where such-and-such train runs and the general demographic of such-and-such train as it passes such-and-such station (I can personally account for the throngs of hiked up cut-off denim shorts and high waisted floral skirts that flutter off at the Bedford L every evening at 6:15). But, hey, these are the stations you frequent, so you’re rarely surprised to find others like yourself (of the, ahem, *queer* persuasion) walking along the same line at the same time.
You walk haphazardly down the platform, no real motivation but to pass the time, to find that *perfect* spot where the doors might just land and let you on, allowing you to arrive to that party just in time to be fashionably late, and everyone will love you and all of your histrionic fantasies will come true… Or maybe you just settle for the spot you’ve found two feet from that handsome stranger with the vintage leather bag. Your proximity (assuming he’s noticed), has immediately initiated you both into the notorious, omnipresent game of gaze. A glance and a glance away, one second of eye contact, followed by two — no smiling! This is no time for practical flirtation tactics. If your mouth moves, it moves to the side or into a clandestine pucker, one that could easily be a natural twitch of the lips, but also one that an interested stranger might find strangely alluring…
This is the line we walk constantly. One side of the line houses our elegant decorum, our polished oxfords and coifed hair, and the other side is home to its cousin — a desperate, tantric lust who knows it must cross the tracks over to Auntie’s house if it wants to get a slice of that pie. So we give face on the Subway, though perhaps unbeknownst to said admirable stranger. And we coyly brush wrists with the men on our sides, imperceptible to those gruff businessmen who decidedly choose to live their lives as “straight”. And with our bodies a glaringly obvious yet invisible billboard of intimacy, we enact our daily inanities with grace and ease, secretly awaiting someone to notice the playful magic that brews just beneath our brow.
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