The dense and humid air of the subway enveloped him as he descended the stairway.  Meanwhile, the sun cast his shadow in front of him, reflecting bits of light off of his brown shoes and shaking on the walls of the stairway, an image he had become accustomed to nearly every day.  As he walked, the flow of subway air left his shirt unruffled and his pants as finely pressed as when he picked them up from the dry cleaner.  The crease of his khakis held strong, similar to the stern expression on his face that seemed to permeate the entirety of John’s day, and his life, for that matter. 

     He approached his train, which headed precisely for his destination at 7:34 each day.  Any later caused him anxiety, for he despised tardiness.  He surveyed the train indignantly as he boarded.  He noticed a small Japanese woman, dressed in brown shoes and a floral print dress, tired and faded from years of wear.  Her thinning hair was placed perfectly in a bun, streaks of gray woven into her shiny dark mane.  On her face sat a contended grin, which eventually turned towards John.  She detected his stare, bowed her head slightly, and continued to gaze forward, out the window towards a constant shade of black.

     He continued to pan the car, eventually setting his gaze on his reflection in the windows.  The background was dark from the tunnels, thirsty for light; the windowpane was shiny, after being freshly cleaned.  His reflection seemed to lie somewhere in the middle, comfortably tucked between darkness and clarity.  But it made for a perfect reflection: It was dark enough to hide his imperfections, but clear enough to highlight a translucent silhouette–his navy blazer with shiny silver buttons, covering his pale blue Polo shirt, a superficial symbol of his contrived social and fiscal status.  Yes, he liked looking at his reflection in the window.  He couldn’t see the gray roots emerging from his scalp, mercilessly imperialistic over the phony brown dye that tried to reclaim his youth.  He couldn’t see the years of wear on his face, from stress and pressure to which he had succumbed, pushing him into his place of social submission.

     The train stopped abruptly, and two men entered.  They giggled uproariously, squeezing each other’s hands, the man on the left reaching with his free hand to squeeze his boyfriend’s bicep.  His scruffy face and tousled hair turned to place a soft kiss on his cheek.  They sat together in their stylishly tattered clothes.

     The man wondered where they were headed.  Hopefully not here.

     John caught himself staring once again, when that same scruffy face turned his way and made eye contact.  His eyes were bright blue, with a tinge of yellow around the outsides.  They sparkled in the dim and dingy atmosphere of the Chicago subway, illuminating the car and, likewise, his mind.

    He looked abruptly downward toward the sharp crease in his khakis, avoiding that moment of connection.  He followed the crease down towards his loafers, not shiny anymore, at least not nearly as shiny as the spark in that boy’s eyes.  The corner of John’s tattoo unexpectedly came into view on his forearm, and almost as quickly as it poked its ugly face from underneath his shirt, he tried to cover it with the cuff of his pale blue Polo shirt.

     He closed his eyes, and remembered mornings when he’d wake up, the marigold and tangerine rays from the morning sun breaking through his window, highlighting the dark green hue of that tattoo.  It would move with his arm, slowly across the worn sheets of his small bed, over to his partner’s back.  John would tickle his shoulder blade softly with his index finger, slowly awakening his love while the orange and red rays from the morning sun washed over his body simultaneously.

     His eyelashes would stir with his finger’s stimulation, blinking almost rapidly until he’d open his eyes fully.  The light from the windows made his blue eyes shine, the tinge of yellow around the sides bursting with energy.  He loved waking him up–if not for that moment alone.

     The train car stopped, and he felt his body collide with the bar next to him, relieving him from his trance.  He thought of his job, the money he needed to make, his wife.  The smile that had grazed his face left.  He looked back at his reflection in the mirror.  Yes, he liked looking at this reflection.  He could see how put-together his façade was.  He could only see what he wanted others to see.

     The doors to the subway car opened.  He quickly glanced at the couple his eyes had greeted earlier as well as the old Japanese woman who still sat, starting contentedly, in her floral dress.  His stern expression and finely pressed clothes pulled him onward.

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