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The following is not actually part of The Subway Diaries (or any other Dreamscape) but it seemed to embrace the ethos (not to mention the setting) of the category so well, that we include it, here, for your enjoyment.


I sit, as it were (crouched, really, my back braced to a wall), in the twilight dawn of subway station X, the twilight dawn that stretches, dim, through all these lonely and darkened corridors during any period of the night, every night.

Can you feel the breeze? It comes noticeably from my left, from the north, ruffles my hair... would ruffle these pages were I to relax my hold. That’s the air pushed ahead through the tunnel by the next approaching train. And look! Up the track, still in the tunnel: two yellowish eyes come a’rattling and a’screeching its approach: a #9 train, heading south? Well, thankie much; don’t mind if I do.

Now I sit in another expanse, internal and metallic and mobile this time, descending the colon of the beast, a long smooth chromium turd sliding down down, to dump me downtown, as it were.

And Look! Stuttering through the girders and briefly glimpsed as they rattle past: every station a book-in-waiting, if only I would take the time and...

Ah. The ride smooths as we coast from 116 → 110 on steady rails and no propulsion, superconductive it feels, steady as the night. Now we slow, pause, ka-ching, doors open, souls descend and disembark, or vice versa, as the case may be... ding ding... "Stand clear of the closing door!" to lurch us on our way.


The yellow/orange plastic pre-formed curves designed to palm the average NY bum. (Or “transient,” as I believe correct terminology these days, or "unsavory," by others [Cam!...]). And my bum too! It could be Mickey Ds, in here, with the form-fitting molded orange and beige plastic of it. But listen!

A rush of air. A higher whine. The low-slung murmured gossip that animals make to pass the time, distract the mind, from the terminable darkness.

Oh, hark. Why have we stopped now? No tiled aquarium glow to be glimpsed, just blank blackness outside the scratched and plastic windows, maybe a hint of grimy tunnel wall pressed close up to the glass. But still... feel that? A hum. The deeper, burning, glowing surge of electricity held in check. Do any of us really know: the thrumming power that feeds the grid?

Oop, on the move again. And someone laughs as we lurch and leave the station (103rd). Out of 22 passengers in this car (yes, I counted) I am not the only caucasian. Another sits opposite and ½ way down, his chin propped on knee-propped fist… no socks, white t-shirt, shorts (it’s damned hot, remember). And me, now, as we arrive at 86th (“Stand clear of the closing doors…” ding...ding. Swoooooosh. Hummmm.) Yes me. I'm glad you asked: red socks, red t-shirt, khaki shorts… I write. For no apparent reason, I write. I am a “writer”, pen to paper, thus. But when I pause (which I don’t often) what then? For example, as we hit 79th and I glance up to take assessment… When I pause to lick the quill and look around. Still a writer? Definition unclear.

"Burden of Proof" (by Scott Turow) is the novel the man held; the man who (bearded, bespectacled, marching resolutely from one car to the next, bracing himself occasionally from swaying) passed, just now, in front of my knees and, for a moment, through the world of my perception and description…

Hark! 66th street… south, south and south some more we go (59th next). Ding ding.

… but am I still a writer then?

I am surrounded now it should be glumly noted. And it ain’t no fun. To my right, to my left, and above, hanging one arm on the crossbar. If one of these scurrilous fellows so much as side-eyes they can read every word and meta-word (and meta-meta-word) I scribe. Well, fuck ‘em all! To hell with them! I scribble on, undeterred, and determined, it might appear, to set a new, and, as yet unconceived record, to be the first, foremost and probably ONLY person to scribble virtually unceasingly from 125th Street (ah, respite from the prying eyes: 42nd Grand Central brings an equally grand exodus, a general emptying of the train, the good from the chaff, as it were [chaff, including me, left on board, as only those heading TRULY downtown stay] and I can breathe again with some space and lucidity and privacy around.) Yes UNCEASINGLY, is what I was saying, I shall pull meaning from the void and press it in ever tightening spirals and hieroglyphs to this page, to be exhumed someday and marveled at by future sociologists and historians alike. They will ogle and gasp, unable to believe, equally unable to deny: the only person, I propose, ever to write perpetually from 125th Street to Christopher Street, unstopping! AND, as 14th St is now behind us, it appears I might just make it since Christopher is next and no more power outages in sight. Still, man plans and god laughs and when's the last time a power outage was predicted never mind spotted, so I won't count it yet, not yet, but now! The train slows! The aquarium glow. Most importantly, I can’t miss my stop (that would be a disastrous and dastardly turn of events). CHRISTOPHER STREET. Ding ding. Jayson, out!

The Subway Diaries i (35/85)

April 3, 1996

Choose a different dreamscape

→ Later

Yes, I just passed up an opportunity to shove my way into a crowded car; choosing instead to wait patiently for the rush to subside, the doors to close. This partially because a) I hoped the door I was at would reopen and b) I didn’t want to deal… but most importantly because c) I knew it would give me added time to jot this. Then, as it pulled past I saw the nearly empty rear car and I inwardly berated myself…

Served an armless girl today – quite young, with her mom + dad and as I looked at her face, I had the surreal falling sensation as I noted in my peripheral vision the marked absence of those primary appendages. But I held strong to my wits and did not look away from her eyes to confirm. Later, when I could surreptitiously study her more fully, under the guise of some duty, I thought maybe she was faking: a child’s game of hiding her arms inside her sweater, hugging herself for warmth maybe, because her sweater seemed lumpy and lopsided. But when she dipped forward to adjust her napkin w/her teeth, the practiced efficiency and adeptness of the motion alluded to a lifetime of compensation, and removed the doubt. Later, I served her an iced-tea and as I placed it in front of her, the same thought occured to all those present and even as she gazed up at me, her eyes querying(?) I had already raised a finger with absurd inspiration. “A straw,” I nodded astutely.

The lumps in her sweater were breasts, I assume. I don’t think she was as young as she at first appeared…

Brought to mind the Chinese gentleman, also armless, who ate quite properly w/his feet: removing shoes + socks and weilding knife + fork between his toes. Later, that man went to the bathroom, alone! How? I don’t know, but if it could be done, I think he would know how.

The girl today could have used a lesson from him – altho her parents would never have allowed it. They were far too proper: wealthy south Americans. She herself spoke w/a pronounced British accent – my feeling is that they sent her to some expensive British school for similarly handicapped.

Angelo was out today because La Fleur (yes, if I haven’t mentioned it, Angelo’s long time partner is the ‘famous’ transvestite, perhaps transexual, performer known as ‘La Fleur’). Turned out to be a gall bladder problem, but brought to mind a possible suitable complication to his story… the one I’ve been trying to conceptualize for weeks…

Angelo is wrapped in an insular defensive absurd arrogant + belligerent, obnoxious, protective shield, because he lacks the traditional qualities and defenses: good looks, pedigree, education, intelligence, etc. People can’t stand his absurd arrogance. Seems markedly unfair, indefensible and reprehensible. But they (we) can’t, either, break him down. From day one, he’s practiced and perfected his technique. Story idea involves the ‘defeat’ of Angelo which leaves nobody happy or victorious. La Fleur in hospital and Angelo continues his front of indifference.

“Good riddance,” he says. “Maybe I can finally keep some of my money.” But when someone suggests AIDS he breaks down and leaves all of us sorry. Said the magic words only to create another Billy Batson. Later, people leave the restaurant; it turns out to be nothing, but still everyone is changed. Whatever. Reeks a little of both the ending of Sometimes a Great Notion and Everything that Rises Must Converge, wherein the son finally gets his old-fashioned, stuck-in-her-ways, stubborn, prim, superior mother to recognize her own folly (that involves the ‘changing of the guard’) only to see that nobody wins. What a fantastic ending to that story!

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