summer sunday

“That’s the thing,” he said, shaking his head. He was looking at the man that was walking away hurriedly.

“Thing about what?” I asked from across the subway car. It had all happened in front of me.

“The community. Did you see how he looked at me?” He stood up and picked up his hat, deliberately stepping over the puddle of his fallen coffee. “Like I was scum. They despise outsiders. Any normal person would have apologized.”

I looked out the window to my side and could see a group of them a block away, a swarm of black frock coats and fur hats. They stood in front of a brick building that had large cement balconies protruding outwards. Tall metal bars were fixed vertically on each balcony, giving them the appearance of cages. It was a hot summer morning and I imagined they all must be uncomfortable in their heavy suits. He followed my eyes out the window.

“They don’t care about anyone but themselves. We’re just sinners to them.” His voice simmered with pain and anger.

I looked at him and his stare dropped. He dabbed at the coffee stains on his jeans with his sweatshirt.

“They need to get with the times,” he muttered. The rest of the car was quiet — nobody had said anything when it happened either — and I had to stop it now.

“This has nothing to do with their beliefs,” I said. “Or their culture. C’mon, stop it.”

“No, no, no,” he said vigorously, shaking his head again. “We’ve got technology now. Science. But they don’t want to accept any of that.” He was excited now and the words were hot on his breath, hot like the coffee. “They couldn’t give a damn about what happens outside their people. Just look at what happened to me.”

I was going to respond, there was more I needed to say, but the speakers inside the car announced my stop had arrived. I gave the man a sad smile. He didn’t return it and turned away to light a cigarette. As I left the car, a woman yelled at him to put it out.

I walked to the end of the platform and waited as a family carried their large suitcases down the stairs. After descending the steps I would walk through a few blocks of unswept sidewalks, past taco trucks and tables showing bootleg DVDs. I would stop at the old movie theatre that we rented out. The marquee above its entrance had had its letters stolen long ago, so it stood ominously blank. Our greeter would open the side entrance that led to the backstage. I would walk in front of the waiting crowd and start with a prayer.

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