Wednesday, September 07, 2005


I don't remember writing this. I was going through some files, and I found it. It's several years old. Is it a dream?

The lady next to me exploded. I was riding the train to work as usual, reading the sports section (the Canadians were ahead again) when it happened. Kaboom! Blood and organs and hair rained down on us passengers, and you might think I got the worst of the deluge since I was sitting next to the lady, but the force of the explosion was so great that most of her bits and pieces flew to the far end of the car. I do remember brushing a tooth or two off my lapel.

It wasn't until I got to work later that I noticed a toe stuck to the top of my shoe. I thought I had worn a hole in my shoe at first. I thought it was one of my toes poking through. Then I realized my mistake, and I shook my shoe over the trash until the toe fell off and mingled with all the coffee lids and tissues.

After that, I didn't think much about the exploding lady. Mr. Edgers was after me about the Seattle report and Smith and Billington kept nagging me about preparing for this three o'clock meeting with one of our top clients. It was a killer of a day altogether, so I didn't think about the exploding lady until I was riding home.

Being back on the train again put her in my mind. And I wondered why she had exploded. Did she do it on purpose? If you're trying to get attention on the train, it's really difficult. No one ever looks up from their paper or book, or if they do it's just to check the map or stare out the window to see if it's their stop. So you almost have to do something like explode if you want anyone to remember you.

Or had someone done something to her? Maybe someone planted an explosive inside her. Maybe one of her kids had played prank. You know how kids are. Or some kind of bug was going around. First you get a vague feeling of unwellness. Your head hurts or you feel really tired even though it's only six-thirty. You can't even stay up for your favorite program. Then the sniffles start and the coughing and sneezing, and soon you're swimming in Kleenexes and menthol candies, and next thing you know you're exploding on a train.

Or maybe she was just angry. Really really angry. And she couldn't hold the anger inside any longer, so she blew up like an angry person in a cartoon.

As I walked home from the station I realized that I'd never know which one of these possibilities came closest to the truth. Maybe none of them did. In any case, I'd never know. That's the problem with commuting. You get these little hints of things, these little teasers. Then life carries you away before you can investigate. You never learn anything about anybody.

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