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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 (52/85)

April 15, 1996

Choose a different dreamscape

→ Later

Well, everything progressed more or less according to plan and schedule and I kept to the list and completed A) the dishes B) the letter C) packing/unpacking D) the cleaning. Stuffed much into closets, more into bags heading for the dump. Not much pleases me as much these days as stuffing a bag full of trash and getting it the hell out of our lives + apartment (not necessarily in that order). Still, much to be done: the boxes of books to removed + stacked on shelves and always the perennial nagging question as to why why why all this effort and labor if we’re destined to ‘remove’ within a short time. But we figure we must unpack regardless ‘cause odds are we’ll be here through the summer at least and must be comfy for that period.

But the best was the phone call from Zain – typical intense Zain imbroglio: “Jay, he says, no preamble, “I’m fucked.”

“Hello, Zain.”

“I’m fucked and I think you might be responsible.”

Turns out some comrade at Columbia (where he’s staying) is a wiz at finding people and offered to find anyone that Zain was curious about (according to Zain the seed of all this started with this friend’s out-of-the-blue ‘offer’; my suspicion is it might have been the other way around. Either way, the response was on the tip of his tongue:) “Amina Khan.”

Amina. His ex girlfriend and long term obsession. But she’s more than that, to him. They dated for a long time in Pakistan, then came to the States together, to different schools. They were soulmates, or at least Paisanos (as the latinos call it), intertwined with so much history and culture; the only one who really understood the other, and trusted. But, as with so much else, a series of disastrous mistakes and blunders involving (per the usual) other sexual partners and the emotional bruising therein…. left them at odds; opposed. For awhile they reunited and parted, reunited again… parted. Always with so much pain + passion + anger. Final split was the big one – complete and permanent to the point of non communication. Amina stayed in the US, Zain returned to Pakistan. Now he’s married to a bisexual sculptress. Amina is living in Virginia (according to the person-finder), probably married, probably with kids. What is a Zain to do?

A fun fact about Zain – he often blurts truths about himself that I suspect might be universal but that many others would not so openly admit, even to themselves. “In the back of my mind,” he says, “I know I’m hoping to sleep w/her.” There’s the deepest motivation; and a good one. Age old; compelling.

But what and how? I left him pondering and devising some phony email w/a similarly phony identity to (re)initiate contact. His ploy? Claim to be a fellow Pakistani who found her name by a random search of fellow Pakistani web-users. Instigate an initial relationship filled w/carefully crafted compliments designed to gain her trust + confidence. Artfully drop the suggestion that he is coming to DC. Feign surprise and uncertainty when she suggests that they meet to share cultural anecdotes. Descend and appear in a full blaze of Zain zany color and splendor, sweep her off her feet and into his arms and… and… Well anything beyond this doesn’t matter in Zain’s playbook of romance and passion. All this in a week. Zain is back! It gives me great pleasure to envision him, now, in his room, tearing his guts out in the effort to devise the perfect 4 line email missive to accomplish his designs. No doubt it will end in flames; but no doubt a very entertaining conflagration.

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