Julie, a 25-year-old girl from the Bronx, let the subway jostle her as it drilled its way through the tunnels, rushing downtown. She was sleepy; she'd gotten up early today, and still she was in danger of being late for work.
When she reached Fifth Avenue, the doors swung open and in ran a boy of about six years old, followed by a desperate-looking man in his forties. 'Dad, dad! This is the subway again, isn't it?' the boy asked, electrified. 'Can I stand, dad?' Nervously, Dad gave a small nod. The boy proceeded to stand in an empty part of the car, stretching out his arms and legs but not touching anything. As the train accelerated, braked and swung through its curves, the boy managed to keep from toppling over. He was giggling as the train did its utmost to smash him to the floor. The father smiled apologetically to the other passengers, who looked uninterested rather than annoyed.

Just then, the doors opened again and in walked Marilyn, Julie's mother. She sat down opposite her daughter. They dared to look at each other as random passengers will do, then averted their eyes, studying details of the subway car's interior.
Marilyn had given up Julie for adoption 25 years ago, and had subsequently lost all contact with her. She rarely thought of Julie (whose name she didn't even know), not out of heartlessness but out of survival. Just as she had been forced to rip out part of herself when she pushed herself deep into the pillows as the nurse walked out, cooing to the bundle on her armójust so had she been forced to suppress and forget, so as not to be confronted with her horrible act. It was a good thing she'd done that. She would never have been able to step out of the situation, regard it objectively and see how the decision had been a good one. Rather she'd have cried herself to sleep, as she had done that first year, not for her loss but for her crime. Instead, she'd chosen a new life and, though she had found other, equivalent hardships in it, she was alive.
Marilyn stared blankly in front of her, her unfocused gaze directed toward Julie. Her daughter noticed and, for a split second, felt as if her mother was a blind woman.
Julie had not been so fortunate in throwing the weight of that rejection, a quarter century old, off her back. She'd been raised in foster homes, and in the first one already, she learned the truth about her origins from a conniving stepsister in a blurt of rage. Rather than trying to locate her mother, Julie went through life accepting that she was a stranger among strangers. This had turned her into a person who was hard to relate to but loyal to the few who could. She was unmarried, with no sign of change. When she wasn't knee-deep in work, she found herself depressed; so she worked harder to avoid the depression.
Her mother focused her eyes and found herself staring at Julie. This girl, Marilyn realized, had the exact same color eyes she had. That shade of brown was rather uncommon. She didn't smile at Julie, but looked out the window as if the darkness of the tunnels offered some fascinating view.

The subway screeched around a corner, slamming the boy into the side of the car. He laughed loudly. 'This is our stop', his father said loudly, as if he wanted to inform everyone that their ordeal, at least, was over. Julie got up from her seat and maneuvered toward the door, touching her mother's knees as she did so. She gave Marilyn a lightning-fast, apologetic look, and was treated to a stern glance in response. Bending her back slightly over this first bad experience of her day, she went to stand in front of the doors, next to the father and his son. The platform came rolling along the subway car, and as the doors opened, she pushed herself into the anonymous masses. Like a drop in the ocean, she soon dissolved into the crowd, blinking hard as she reached the open daylight, while the subway with her mother in it continued its journey through the dark bowels of the city.

Posted by cronopio at 02:18 PM, October 27, 2002