Occasionally, a moth makes its way onto the train.
There is no recourse. The lights can’t be turned off and there is no way to open the window and usher the frenzied insect out into the early morning air. Approximately once per week, a massive, powdered flutterer creates an uncomfortable ride to the city. And there’s no prevention plan. Luckily, the moth stays away from the back of the train because the light strips end before the last seat. And as it careens and ricochets off the plastic panels covering the florescent lighting, it dive bombs the sleepy passengers, ruining their sleep. It’s hilarious. They can’t shut an eye. Between their gravelly curses, Mothra lays waste to their dreams of napping and kamikazes towards the women that still smell of hairspray and the men with bad toupees. And I watch this nightmarish, airborne maple-leaf dip beneath the top of the seats and the arms of the startled strangers flailing like excited puppets. An eerie distortion of The Wave that you see at baseball games.
I laugh at them. Their involuntary reactions are amazing. The accelerated beating of their hearts is almost audible. Then the tables turned.
I guess I was due for some fear-of-harmless-creature karma.
I can’t tell you what I was doing on the train that day. Standard stuff, I suppose. Reading a book or responding to emails. I can’t say. But I can tell you the exact shape and size of the spider that ruined my life.
One of those off-white little guys about the shape of a dime. Not threatening. Certainly not dangerous. I’m getting upset talking about it. I planned to find a picture of the kind of spider I’m referring to, but when I googled the images I urinated a bit. The point is, it was a spider. Eight legs. Evil incarnate. Albino looking creepy thing. And it emerged from the shoulder pads of the woman in front of me and attacked me.
Its first trick was roaming around on the back of the seat. Toying with me. It could see me sweating. It heard my shallow breaths. It was taunting me. Reveling in my pain.
Then it disappeared for a minute. Back into the recesses of that lady’s overstuffed coat. Creating a false sense of security. Trying to make me feel like everything was going to be okay.
Then…BAM. There he was again. On the back of the seat. Skittering, snickering. Stopping. Stopping? He looked at me. 1,000,000 miniscule eyes challenging me. His front-most yellowy legs signing to me in perfect ASL. I couldn’t help myself. I looked closer.
I didn’t know spiders could give someone the bird. Then, he disappeared again. He’s in my head now and he knows it. It is only a matter of time before he…appears on the wall and comes at me fast. He’s almost on my arm now.
And I leapt. I had no reason to suspect I was capable of such a thing.
Neither did Scrawny Businessman. He had been uncomfortably sitting next to me the whole time. Giving me the benefit of the doubt. I’d been as unobtrusive as a companion could get. No small-talk. Little to no mouth breathing. And I only read over his shoulder in a surreptitious enough fashion to provide complete deniability. Extensive physical contact seemed unlikely to us both.
But there I was. In his arms. Our glasses transferring age old smudges. I could smell the Sensodyne. I had shrieked, apparently. I didn’t find that out until later. I could feel the tightly drawn, too-thin skin of his arms rubbing against mine. My arm hairs pulling in the gold links of his analog watch. He wanted to say something. But he didn’t. I wanted to say something. Instead, I just buried my head against his coarse, corduroy tie and hugged him tightly.
Turning sideways, he slid through my tightly clasped fingers and vanished down the center aisle. I haven’t seen those bifocals since. Haven’t smelled that pungent green after shave by Mennen that my Dad used to wear. That everyone’s Dad used to wear.
And I haven’t enjoyed a quiet, dry-thighed ride in quite some time.
Scrawny Businessman, if you are reading this (which is possible, it’s technically non-fiction), come back. I’ll be waiting with a polite, no-words smile and an analysis of the Monroe Doctrine. And I won’t sit on your lap again.