The Ofi Press Magazine

International Poetry and Fiction from Mexico City

Subway Loop

By Bruce Millar, USA (Published in Issue 5)

 

“Help, Help” the man rocking back and forth on the subway car cried. It was mid-afternoon and the train was by no means full, other than the mind of the man with the cane dispensing his inner distress. By all appearances, he was not envisioning himself relaxing on a rocking chair.


“Help, Help mom and dad” he burst a minute later. The subway headed west towards Yonge Street/Highway 11, to pass under the longest street in the world. Several stops south on the Yonge line at Dundas station, on the sidewalk in front of the Eaton centre, a map of highway 11 was imprinted on the ground. It began as a stir stick for Lake Ontario, served as a street before it eclipsed the city proper, and steeped into a highway.

On the subway, a child held his mothers hand. The disturbed man’s outbursts frightened him.  The little boy has no idea he was due to pass under the longest street in the world, Yonge Street, highway 11. I don’t think he could conceive of such a distance, unless it was in context of how far away from his mother’s hand he felt, when he was alone and scared. She could be in the house next door, and it would not matter. It was beyond his innocent ken to discern the difference or translate between kilometres and miles. He held her hand.

The man grasped his cane. The cane was scarred, war-weary; the more so as it seemed the man had long since lost his armour, or more than likely never had any and the cane was a poor replacement. Gashes and splotches of various faded colours, along with what looked like caked mud clung to his cane in arbitrary asymmetrical patterns.

“Help, Help,” came from the man with the cane, “criminals have more friends than I do, because I am blind, help mom and dad,” and this time a Good Samaritan approached.

“Do you need help?”

“No, I am fine”, said the man with the cane. The Good Samaritan returned to his seat. The little boy holding his mothers hand had a new focus. The subway operator had his door open, and the boy could see into the brains of the train. The offer of help to the man with the cane diffused the tension. Whatever threat weighing on the vision of the man, it was not present.

The traffic light guiding the subway operator turned from amber to red. The train stopped in the tunnel between stops.

(The tunnel led downwards. A space hacked out of the thick concrete wall so he could enter. There was plenty of light behind him; the blackness sucked it behind the plywood chip door several meters below. The door had red trim; beads of moisture dotted the surface, like a frame due to crack under the strain of holding a painting too big for it.)


(The door had no handle. No bottom secured the structure; it merely led into the darkness within and below. There was no path between hole in wall and concerted night. Yet he had to navigate it. He knew he had to tear open that door.)

“Help Help,” continued the mantra from the man with the cane. “Why aren’t we going, mom and dad?

(The door looked thicker the longer he stood before it. He felt a pull in his stomach and all his organs, towards the unknown behind the door. The urge to turn and flee was just as powerful. He threw himself at the door and began to pull and tear at a break in the chipboard at the top, just below the trim. The cold air wafting from within was as soothing to his hot skin as it was threatening to his blood. Behind the first door, there was another. He realized there was a child trapped in there.)

With a jolt the subway resumed westward movement.

 


The Good Samaritan re-approached the man with the cane. ”Are you certain there isn’t anything I can do to help you?”

“I can’t stand to look at it anymore. I’ve tried to break through and I can’t. I just can’t. There is one way you can help me.”

“What is that?”

“Take out my eyes.”

(He ripped at the chip wood with both hands. With each piece of door he removed, the pull to enter got stronger as did his reticence to continue. With each piece of chip wood he reduced to splinters, another took its place before he could begin to see what was within.)

 

(He had to run; run until he found his way out. Anything had to be better, safer than the entrance to this tunnel.)


The train left Sherbourne station and headed west. Yonge Street was next. The driver swung his leg off his chair and exited his booth.

“I’m going to need you to move,” said the train operator to the little boy and his mother. He lifted their seat so he could access the window looking out onto the platform. The man with the cane got up and stood facing the window looking out the front of the train. The entrance to Yonge station materialized in the distance. At the hollowed out concrete entrance to the station, on the upper right side, a set of lights, akin to road lights, gave the conductor directions on how to proceed. The light changed from red to amber. The man with the cane turned and faced the door. The train stopped and the doors opened. The man with the cane exited the westbound train and went to the other side of the platform to await the eastbound train. The little boy and his mother left the train and walked up the stairs to leave the subway. The Good Samaritan sat in the seat the man with the cane abandoned. The man with the cane waited impatiently for the eastbound subway train to arrive.

(The trim began to pulse. The chip wood door muffled a dim echo of a high-pitched scream.)


The westbound train left the station as the eastbound train arrived. Passengers exited then entered. The man with the cane sat beside the door on the train heading east. At the exits of the station, the lights turned green. The trains proceeded into their respective tunnels.

“Help Help,” said the man with the cane.

 

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An artist living and working out of Toronto, Canada, Bruce writes everything from kid’s poetry to erotica, humorous stories, puns and jokes, musical parodies, meditation music, short stories and whatever else validates his parking.