Life While You Wait

Downtown Berkeley Station

You run down the stairs, hearing the rumble of the underground trains and feeling the artificial wind move against your hair and skin. You take your clipper card and slam it against the sensor, opening it’s gates for you to rush through. You stumble through another flight of stairs but you slow down, seeing the tail end of the Richmond-bound train move underneath you. You’re too late.

You walk slowly and lean against a wall, waiting for the next train to come in 7 minutes (though, you expect it to be 10). You’re panting. Your hands are sweaty. You take out your headphones with the hope to escape for a moment, but you decide against it, realizing what you just entered: a liminal space, a contact zone.

This tunnel looks the same during the day and the night. The floors, the lights, the people. Silent figures stand next to you. Making, connecting, breaking eye contact as you scan them one by one individually with a passive gaze. All are carrying bags, all with headphones, eyes glued to their phone or book. It is the loud ones that you’re weary of. The ones who walk up to you asking for fifty cents. “I got none” you say. But you do. You just don’t want to take out your wallet, flashing your bills, presenting a moment of vulnerability. So you look on, stone faced, unemotional. They’re all tired, all wanting to go home. Just like you. The one of many.

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