My dearest Petula,
Please forgive me if my hand is slow and imprecise in its composition, for my mind has grown faint and weary with travel, and my heart hangs heavy with the burden of your absence. I write this message to you amidst a most treacherous and taxing leg of my journey, here within the ever churning bowels of the New York City Subway. It has been nigh on one hour since I last gazed on your tender form.
Conditions here are harsh, crammed in as we are, often dozens to a cabin. A lone baby wails, somewhere, in the still, dense crowd. I find my gaze is yet another hapless wanderer, searching desperately in the eyes of my companions—if I may venture to call them as much—for a glimmer of warmth, human affection, but my quiet supplications are met not even with a trace of recognition. For, down here within the oppressive crucible of the subterranean realm, we are rendered no longer human but senseless beasts, corralled into our sun-starved pens, blindly striking out, bearing our teeth at one another for a promise of tranquility, and perhaps a little space to reach the phones in our pockets.
I do confess, even I lack the fortitude not to succumb to such moral failings. Starved of the slightest morsel of comfort as I am, I find with no small degree of helplessness and shame that I cannot resist that most vile and boorish of urges, the loathsome sin of man-spreading. Oh, to what low depths have I sunk, that I should take such gross advantage of the girth naturally afforded to me by my unrivaled masculinity to ward off the humble entreaties of my fellow passengers? Are we not bound together in the great cosmic brotherhood of man? Is not this pitiable traveler’s aching limbs my own? Racked with guilt, my hand trembles as I write, for even now, standing at my feet like some leprous vagabond is a woman with child, feeble and near collapse. Though I strive to be the shining beacon of charity you have long adored, I am afraid I must seek your forgiveness, for I clearly heard her say she was getting off at Prince Street, and it just wouldn’t make sense to offer up my seat at this point.
Life on the subway is often treacherous. I would not dare to embarrass you with accounts of the obscene and menacing figures I have encountered on my travels. My fellow passengers and I have been terrorized at great length by a band of young ruffians who managed to board us at 57th. They are a gangly, rambunctious lot, cackling as they stalk the confines of the cabin like a pack of hyenas. Their leader is an older, brooding character whom the others have assigned the ominous honorific, “Teacher”. What brand of instruction this purported teacher provides I do not wish to discover; though, it seems like it’s probably Social Studies.
As they crowd and intimidate the other travelers, these adolescent brutes chatter like a murder of crows, speculating incessantly about the possibility of their missing their stop. I can only assume that this is some mischievous game these perverted rogues conduct to divert themselves—a knavish scheme designed to psychologically torment we unwitting passengers for their own sadistic pleasure—since their stated destination is the train’s terminus. I mean, seriously, do they not have maps and signs in western Connecticut? How hard is it to look out a window? I shudder to think of the havoc these contemptible miscreants will wreck on the poor souls they will next encounter, the wretched pilgrims of the Statue Cruises.
This is to speak naught of the scores of deficients and ne’er-do-wells who otherwise populate this infernal conveyance. Too many of these loutish peasants comport themselves in a manner that would be unfit of the most tawdry flophouse, exhibiting a particular temerity with open beverages typically reserved for the first ten seconds of a paper towel commercial. In this very instant, a rippling tide of coffee has risen to the level of our knees, forcing me to curtail my writing to you, as they require every able-bodied man present to bail the lot of us out.
May this message reach you swiftly and without incident; I should get a few bars once we pull into Rector. Until then, know that I am
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Andy Newton is a writer living in Astoria, Queens. His work has been published by National Lampoon and McSweeney’s.