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
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.