Hic> duhhhh, saaaay yooou kidz, uh, Hic>, see, uhm, w’aaaaaal zizz uh, w’aaal yuhsee, Foursay Davis uh well we hit one thousand hits uh, today, yeah, Hic>, a thouzzan folks looked at our Hic> blog yeah so we been, uhwell, cella bratin’! Wih a lil’ whusky! Whusky! So Uncle Forsay Davis Hic> w’all he gonna go uh stairs and lay down. So nice Mizzus Martha she gonna readya a stoooory. Hic> G’nite! MARTHA! YER ON! WHUSKY!
That day, on her lunch break, Lily rode the subway. Comprised of only two cars and one track, the Paulino train was a result of over-ardent city planners several years prior, who’d, it can only be assumed, hoped that the construction of a subway would draw tourists—namely, those who had never before ridden below ground—to the sleeper town. The train didn’t actually go anywhere useful. Its track ran the thirteen mile east-west stretch between Boxhill and Gilford Pond—the former a new housing development whose residents all owned automobiles, and the latter a much overgrown “forestation region” infested by juvenile neckers and razor-tipped mosquitoes. Between the two ends sprawled fabric factories that garnered workers from Paulino’s southern rim. This too was the neighborhood in which sat both the diner and Lily’s house. In order to access the eastbound train, Lily had to wade, duck-footed, north fifteen blocks and over three, her umbrella upended twice by the rain. Lily did not wear a watch.
The train was nearly empty. To Lily’s left sat an older man, his shoulders caved around the briefcase he held against his chest; his body thus secured, he fell asleep. Next, a boy, desperate to go aboveground. He rode standing, his forearms pressed against a metal pole. Every time the train jerked, the boy parted his lips and nodded, as if to count: a woman and a man, two men, a woman reflected in the subway door where Dr. Flock made faces in the glass. Later, Lily said that she didn’t notice the man in the train who felt like nothing. But there he leaned, one hand holding a paper bag and the other pressed against his cheek, his palm facing outwards. He smiled, perhaps at the awkward angle made by the curve of his neck and his hand, at that strange conjunction of body parts that distanced him from the subway riders. Then, ever so carefully, Dr. Flock moved. He extended his arms and slid slightly to the right so that, little by little, his silhouette obstructed Lily’s reflection. “Maybe tomorrow I’ll be you,” he said. Lily closed her eyes. Certainly, she did not meet Dr. Flock in the train that day, at least not in any way she remembered. It was the diner: she told Madeleine later it had been the diner. By the time Lily opened her eyes again, Dr. Flock had gone. The pitted half-lights in the tunnel outside battered her reflection in the windowpane. “I have a friend who breaks things,” she thought. “Last night, her body fell against a wall. She threw her body into a wall.” But that day there were no walls: only glass.
The sky hung down. Dr. Flock worked himself up against a bush. In front of him was a younger man speaking on a cell phone: “I don’t know. I can’t really tell you. She smiled like she wanted it but it was like I felt like I wasn’t there, you know? Like some movie.” Dr. Flock reached for the zipper of his pants. “But like in the movie where there was this other dude, it was only me standing there.” He parted his lips. “And they spent the whole movie trying to get back together.” Dr. Flock’s pupils flickered dark, then light as he felt his penis rise above the boy, above telephone wires, above the whole town of Paulino. “I mean, I could even be her.” Perhaps it was already night, the sky a balloon against his back. Perhaps he stood too long. “I am this and that,” Lily whispered to herself. That day they wore the same face. “This is me and that is me,” but Lily had to squint to see through the darkness that pushed against the glass in the stalled subway car. She could not bring herself to go inside the diner.
To Madeleine: “This is what I’ve done, I’ve done too much. The morning was gray so I closed the blinds, the day was wet and I put up my umbrella. I rode the subway. The sky was round, the tunnel dark.” Madeleine watched as fire chewed her cigarette to ashes. “I ache,” she said. David sat at home; he loved her like a film. He’d changed his mind about the painting: clear eyes. Madeleine knew he’d lay her on the bed and move her arms. He’d cover her with canvas, paint her white. She and Lily stood on the diner steps and worried out the day, waiting for it to flush them down. They felt themselves grow ugly in the light.
W’allll wuzzn’t thaata good storee. Uh. Whusky and the divil donn mix.