Getting sick on a train is tough business. I’ve seen people pass out and throw up, usually in tight quarters. One time on a crowded train, a woman feinted into the unsuspecting lap beneath her. The person attached to the lap made a move to quickly give up his seat, but in his haste to make space he dropped her on the floor.
I’ve never been that kind of sick, but I’ve felt a fever creep over me in those hellish depths. It was winter, hat-and-scarf winter, and that icky warmth spread out from the center of my thick jacket. It traced the outlines of my shoulders and neck until it erupted in sweat down my back and out towards my hands.
I wrenched my scarf free. I would have left it for trash on the floor if there was enough space to let it fall. I jammed the wool hat in my bag and wedged the bag between my legs. I unbuttoned the jacket. Even the warm, dank subway car air was welcome inside the jacket.
I pivoted slightly so I could wiggle one arm free of its sleeve. And then the other. The jacket slid down into my arms and I folded it over and over until it looked more like a pillow. I tied the scarf around the jacket like a sweaty parcel. Then I reached down to reposition my bag over my shoulders.
I thought to myself, if there is snow on the ground when I get out of this subway, I am going to bury my head in it.
I stood there sweating for a few minutes, holding the jacket package and feeling eyes on me from all over the car. The train slowed down to approach 125th St. I had about a hundred blocks to go.
By 168th St, I was shivering.
[Photo by Lesley Steele]