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--- S E T H   A B R A M S O N

Twenty-two strangers in a metal box,
hurtling through darkness.  Sometimes more, after
a Sox game, whenever the microchip men
are gathering at the Hynes; sometimes less, on the last
train of the day, the echoes of screeching brakes, lights flashing
on and off without pattern, scaring the old hobos, who think
they're having a seizure.  This is the  red line, from up Alewife way,
with suburban teens in caked-on makeup and three-inch soles,
all the way down to Mattapan-you have to take a special connection-
dark-skinned youths wearing winter hats in July and stomping around
in unlaced army boots.  In between is the city's exotic exhale;
Harvard Square, funk wafting from the new arrivals, with drawn faces
and unwashed hair.  Kendall, the home of the great technologists, where
pencil-protectors are always making a come-back, and half the riders
hail from Beijing or Nagasaki.  Then there's the Park Street everyman,
bustling off to the hair appointment or the power lunch, 
the courtroom or the barroom, eager to escape the hub
of the underground in the city which proclaims itself
The Hub of the Universe.

Inside the 6:53, foreheads begin to melt -- the AC is broken again, and the MBTA makes no promises. By August everything will be running smoothly, heat pulsing from hidden vents. When the salt isn't stinging, the urban still-life comes into focus: sharp primaries, eyes looking out at the false night whipping by. No one wants to see you. The Armani cheese have misplaced their cab fare, this is their once-a-year on spare change-they avoid inhaling too deeply; a woman sprouts plastic bags from every pocket, sometimes full of sticky cans, sometimes pitifully deflated. The tourist, slicked-back hair and American Tourister tag a red-and-blue beacon, intently reads an airport novel on his way to anywhere else. He isn't sure what to make of it all, he'll take a cab in the future. Some freckle-monster reads the advertisements, giggling, asking mom to explain ESL or mouthing the words "Living Fit and Loving It!-Save 50% now!" in wide-eyed wonder. Then the conductor is there, laughably, drawling into a waxy ear, spitting up phlegm and directing passengers to "Please Take Your Belongings" and "Have a Nice Day." In D.C. this is an automated voice; in Boston you actually hear how little he cares.

These icicle forms, dripping in heat and hardly twitching, will soon be in motion, excusing themselves as they brush past another frozen face, stepping over an umbrella dropped by a senior citizen. For now they are placed, not willful, seated on black vinyl patched with duct tape. Someone will be Hispanic, Spanish-only, trying to find another face in the silence, never seeing the dirty sign at the end of the train which begins "En El Caso de Una Emergencia…"; when the train begins to lurch his stomach will plummet along with the rest, thinking that this is it, this was the wrong train, the one that ends in a heap of serrated metal on some corner of this Atlantis complex. Someone will speak to no one in particular, someone will be courting tinnitus beneath blaring headphones. There will be irony, paradox, and hyperbole, swept beneath the whirl of lights outside the window, as people watch one another through reflections; on the red line, someone is always eating a sandwich, and someone's stomach is always snarling.

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