15 July 2010

orange line to vienna.

I have just had dinner with a friend in town from Portland and I have been bemoaning the nature of DC citizens. this friend of mine - from the great city of urban parks and microbrews and the friendliest people you will ever meet - asks me why I am so adverse to the city I live in. I sigh and spout off a short list. no one smiles. they drive like maniacs and honk for no reason. they will run you over if you stop on the escalator. he asks me if I am turning into a local. a look of horror crosses my face. are you kidding me? their lack of common decency astounds me. the very last thing I would want to be known as is a DC local. harsh I know. and a vast generalization. it's funny how God proves you wrong sometimes.

after saying goodbye to my friend, I walk down to the metro. my head down. my headphones in. my smile gone. I look up at the schedule and see that my train is not coming for another 7 minutes. my exasperation continues as an inner monologue. what am I doing here? sweat begins to run down my spine. 95 degrees and so freaking humid. I didn't realize I moved into the middle of a swamp. the train finally arrives. I step into the car and the air-conditioning is on. for once. I have to squeeze in next to a girl in a white dress belted with a black belt I almost bought the other day. she makes no movement to create more room for me. across from her is another girl with large sunglasses loosely holding her hair out of her face. our eyes connect but she does not smile. typical I guess. next to her is a man in a wheelchair that seems much to big for him. his shriveled body is swallowed by it, but as he strains to hold onto the pole in front of him I notice the strength in his arms. his muscles surprise me until I realize they are his main form of transportation.

the train begins to move and the two girls rest their hands on the back of the man's wheelchair to steady themselves. well that's rude. the train jerks slightly and the muscles on his arms tighten as he grips the pole. oddly enough, so do the muscles on the arms of the girls. he slowly turns to the one with the sunglasses and smiles sheepishly. she does not look him but focuses on holding on to the chair. suddenly I realize what is going on. the old wheelchair does not have breaks. they are not holding onto it to steady themselves, but to keep it from moving. this must be their job. there is no way they're doing it just to be nice. and yet. my head turns up from the book I'm reading. I pause my ipod and tuck my headphones into my purse. the corners of my mouth threaten to smile.

the train lumbers on and in between each jolt and shudder, the girls quickly stretch their fingers and shake off their hands that are cramping from gripping his chair so tightly. the man holds onto the pole, his muslces twitching. the three of them are not touching. they do not know each other from a stranger on the street. they do not make eye contact and they do not talk. ignoring their good deed and the reception of it. they are connected in silence by pole and chair and general humanity.

we begin to pull into the ballston station. the girl in the white dress holds onto the pole and holds onto the chair and leans down so she is at eye level with the man. you said you were getting off at ballston, right? he nods. the doors open and the girls struggle to qucikly turn his laborious wheelchair and push it out the doors. there is no way that chair will get off the train in time. I dart in front of one of the doors. a skinny man in his sixties jumps up and pushes the chair from the side, dislodging it from behind one of the poles. the black belt I almost bought falls off the girl in the white dress and lands on the floor. the handful of younger, stronger men sitting down reading john grisham novels make no move to help.

suddenly the chair takes a leap off the car. I reach back and pick up the belt I almost bought. the girl in the white dress takes it from me and we smile triumphantly. somehow the girl with the sunglasses ends up behind the wheelchair instead of on the train. I am pretty sure this is not her stop. the doors begin to close. resigning herself to the next train, she braces herself behind the wheelchair and begins to push as people stream past her, annoyed that she is blocking part of the platform. her voice is the last thing I hear before the doors seal shut and the car lurches forward. now let's find that elevator. the girl in the white dress and I look at each other and smile.

the train arrives at my stop. I step off into the sweltering night air and dial the number of my Portland friend. okay, maybe becoming a DC local wouldn't be SO bad. this city is starting to grow on me.


joyce said...

I felt like I was there witnessing this and am glad you were there to share it. You are a gift.
Love mom

Mark said...

i like this. :-)

Dawn said...

that'a girl Carrie! Don't allow others' behaviour to mold your character. DC NEEDS you! Dawny

KP said...

this is beautiful. thanks for your vivid words.