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  • J Scott Lane

It's Hard to Tell in this Light...

Updated: Apr 18, 2023

From a prompt conducted with the Gotham Writer's Workshop.



The J had just pulled away from Bowery a few minutes before. The lights in the tunnel walls picked up speed, blurred together. Alabama, Van Siclen, Cleveland. Then 75th, then Woodhaven. On an on the stops came: the train slowed, doors opened, people mixed, doors closed, train leaves. It had been six years since Geneva had joined the ranks of the New York underpaid, and the only thing she had become accustomed to after all that time was the rhythm, the warp and the woof, of the subway ride home.


She leaned her black curls against the cool glass, happy that she had gotten a seat even if there was far too much thigh-kissing going on with heavy beard-guy to her left. Semi-hypnotized, she watched the pattern of tunnel lights flow and ease and speed in their alternating rhythm. She had even gotten used to the alchemical smell of tired perfume, musky top-notes of people that actually did physical labor, and the other mysterium that combined to make each subway’s signature scent – Eau de Compartiment.


Unconsciously, she surveyed the crowd in the car for the person or persons that were likely to disobey time-honored rules of personal space. Her eyes rolled over, then lingered on, a younger man in a trenchcoat – sometimes an ominous sign – that stared down at his scuffed brown shoes, once dress, now casual. She couldn’t really make out his features, there being a couple of people and their bags in her line of sight so that she only caught glimpses of him as people swayed back-and-forth to the traveling rhythm of the car.


She stared longer than was considered polite, but this guy reminded her of Lenny. It had been years since she had thought of him, even longer since she had seen him. He had been a happy-go-lucky type of Lenny back in her freshman college days. The Lenny in this car in this time looked like he had lost something or was himself lost. It was hard to tell in this shuddering light, but even more obscured was her memory, her once-passion, all of which had been opaqued by time. She had gotten off their train; Lenny had wanted to stay on. It was long enough ago that it seemed like she had only read about their relationship. She missed that feeling she had in the beginning with him, everything future-looking then. She didn’t miss him, not really, but she missed the person that she had been when she had known him.

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