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  • Writer's pictureKayla Williams

Circa 2018: An Endangered Connection

I did this once before. In Queens, dressed for the bipolar weather and ready with all the necessary items for this minuscule train adventure. The checklist reads — Muji Pen, Post its, A Package of Colorful Fine Tip Markers (That weren’t used), Big Red Sketchbook, and a MetroCard.

The materials and I found ourselves waiting for the R Train at 3:59 pm and at 4:04 pm I sat in a mustard yellow seat to the far left of the cart. Thanksgiving is what I thought of when I looked around the R train. The colors of yellow and orange that the seats are trapped in are what fuelled the thought. The wooden dark brown armrest resembled the finish of furniture in Ikea and on the beige walls when I look close enough, I can see they’re adorned with the U.S National Symbol of a bald eagle.

This was Circa 2018 pre-pandemic, pre-distance, pre-what can possibly happen next.

I watched in silence and took note of all the individuals that made a debut in this train chair divided by sliding doors.

As time passes, from my angled position I notice the train as people enter. The demographic changes when you move from stop to stop, especially closer to One World Trade. Once a mixture of rainbow sprinkles and now it’s more Haagen-Dazs vanilla chocolate chip where the chips are escaping every spoonful. As we speed past more stops, I see even more people enter. There was a man with a sign above his head clutching the armrest like a child holds a teddy bear. The sign was a tiny 8 by 11 sized paper inside of a gigantic frame. It reads, “There’s only one city where stars get starstruck.” There were other people too. The woman with the red lips, the man with the purple jacket, and the Culver city staircase giving a grainy resemblance of a human being.

I am reminded of the bald eagle and how it once was endangered like having a conversation with the person across from you on the train is. So many people sat down and stood not engaging in anything but their music, their book, their friends. Nothing outside of their own world. It’s an interesting sight to see and realize I am just as a part of it as the next. I plug my ears with music to block out everything because it’s easier to deal with in the comfort of your box than to share your box with another. What if they rearrange something? What if they don’t like it and throw it away without permission? What if they share their box with me and I have nothing to add? Sometimes it’s a routine entering these carts that I or you forget space is shared with real people that have lives like us. All I can do is sit and observe

Its Circa 2021, mid-pandemic, mid-distance, mid-it’s not over yet.

Keeping in tradition with the same materials — Muji Pen, Post its, UsedColorful Fine Tip Markers, Big Red Sketchbook, and a MetroCard — On the R train, I sat to the far left of the cart, observing again. This time the speed at which I took notes drastically slowed. There was not much to see. Conversations on trains were endangered before but now try extinct. There’s a woman with hand sanitizer and a tissue cleaning the pole, a man eyeing the chair in front of him but too hesitant to sit down, and a child with a pink mask playing games on her mother’s phone. Similar but different than before, it’s gotten worst. It once was a choice not to connect but now we are scared too.

Like before I plug my ears with music to block out everything because it’s easier to deal with in the comfort of your box than to share your box with another. What if they have something? Are they safe to be around? It’s a routine with a mask covering and all I can do is sit and observe

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