The Consummate Commuter

I am the consummate commuter.

I stand stoically in crowded buses and trains
calves crying out to be seated
shoulders aching under a backpack
and earplugs trailing like string.

I spy a vacant seat.

I sit, but only if I am dignifiedly close enough
not to have made an embarrassing scramble.
Once seated I am relentless –
I will fight for elbow space;
if squeezed in between two seats
I will push back and lean on the backrest.

Seats are rare.
And rare things need a keen searching eye.

Or physical intimidation.

The other women drape themselves on the poles
I grip an overhead handle with a no-nonsense air
“No, of course my biceps don’t hurt”
I pretend this is a workout for my flabby urban upper arms.
I try to look as capable and ruthless and confident as possible.

I am closer to the seated passengers than the pole-holders
although the poles are easier, far easier on the flab, to hold onto.

Punishing my 5’1” frame is worth it
when I slide into a vacated seat
with an unspoken air of
“Yes, you were saying?”
And proceed to blow my nose unselfconsciously.

But the Consummate Commuter
is a hard identity to keep up.
Falling asleep and missing a destination
is quite un-consummate.
I jerk awake
(how could this happen ~
the shuffling of people ready to de-board usually wakes me)
and proceed to look as unruffled
de-board hastily at the next
station, as if this one was mine

Change platforms
not looking guiltily behind (mentally, yes)
Course correction complete.

10 minutes wasted.

A broken nail
on a model’s hand
sign of the loss of control.

The Consummate Commuter is down, but not out.

We will meet again.

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