I’m A Stranger Here Myself

On my daily commute, there are sometimes so many people on the platform that I am literally carried onto the train of the crowd’s accord. It only ever works when the commuters are so many that the train has to whisper its way into the station. These are the days when we’re all suffocating the yellow line and I’m three people from the gap but also directly in front of the doors closest to the stairs so when the doors open, waves of people gather me up with their sides, unknowingly pluck me from the ground by pressing into each other while curling their morning coffees into their chests and bracing themselves against each other to simultaneously push toward a doorway the size of a business envelope and deposit me where, if I bothered to move, I’d wind up anyway. I let them do it, this rigorous, happenstance transportation, because when I touch down in the car, they immediately let go. The embrace never holds too long. It’s not like unwanted dance floor attention. It’s nothing like a brush with clingy codependence. It’s not frottage. It’s not victimhood. It’s childhood. It’s hanging from your dad’s hands while he spins at top speed, him a merry-go-round, you its passenger. It’s a tremendous cradle. It’s being sung to sleep. To be utterly surrounded by the heat and proximity of strangers, then gently released—it’s the most familiar anonymity around. I let it happen and I like letting it happen. I let it happen and I grin all the while. I smile because I’m tickled. I let them tickle me. It’s what some might call consensual.

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Carissa Halston’s debut novel, A Girl Named Charlie Lester, was honorably mentioned at the New York Book Festival. Her novella, The Mere Weight of Words, is due out in June from Aqueous Books. She currently lives in Boston where she edits a journal called apt and hosts a reading series called Literary Firsts.