Trains in August

He was standing at the head of the line, holding up the head of the line, at Subway while we all waited for him while we all waited for the train South (the South train) to allow us to board.
He was particular and peculiar about his sandwich, or so it seemed, because the vegetables were important. And how much. And how many.

“More tomatoes, please,” and I thought him polite, at least, though he was holding up the line, and the rest of us, from our choices. He had a large backpack over one shoulder, and kept hitting the man behind him with it, shifting, peering at the lettuce and peppers.

“No, too many,” he corrected. His head was shaven, close, but not entirely. He was animated and anxious and we all were because there was a train to catch and a sandwich to assemble and our turns depended on his decisions, alone, and we all stood there, animated and anxious, and the train was waiting.

“Mayo. Mayonnaise. Just a little. No mustard. Salt and pepper.”

It was almost my turn, and in my head, I thought ‘I’m better than he is, because I am aware of my compatriots here in line with me, it isn’t just about my needs, but it’s okay, he knows what he wants, why is it taking him so long, the sandwiches are stacking up, what if mine is wrong because his is so right, and the train is waiting.’

He was done, then, and then another man wanted only lettuce and tomato, and then there was me, and the small girl behind the glass, and I gestured across the array of condiments and vegetables and metal trays and said, in one word, what I wanted.

“Everything.”

Later: ‘Jesus, he laughs loud.’

September 1, 2008

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