I see people doing all sorts of things riding the subway:
- People clipping their fingernails/toenails, often with clippers (sometimes without).
- People fighting (usually men, and mostly with a lot of chest-beating, cussing and not all that many punches or kicks or jabs. Some food throwing, though).
- People (usually but not exclusively couples) making out with each other, touching, groping, exchanging fluids, etc.
- People eating outlandish food (by this I mean lidless bowls of soup or large, unwieldy sandwiches, and just today I saw a man eating from a neat pile of pistachios balanced on his crotch).
- People sleeping, busking, crying, laughing (sometimes uproariously).
Three people huddled together though isolated from the rest of the riders, who backed away to give them much-needed space. A young woman with a grim-faced friend each kneeling on the floor on either side of her, an imperfect symmetry reminding me of a renaissance painting in form, composition and mood.
The woman was very sick, or extremely drunk (at a certain point, I think these states of being are rather indistinguishable, if not interchangeable). One of her friends held open a half-full plastic grocery bag under her face, which swung as the train swayed back on forth on the tracks.
The contents of the bag sloshed within, reeking and terrible.
The other friend had cupped his hands and remained in waiting, in case the woman vomited again and missed the grocery bag. His hands did the work of redirecting the flow to its proper place.
“She’ll be alright,” said the friend holding the bag. “We just need to get her home.”
The other friend said not a word, made no move to wipe up the mess in his hands.
The woman vomited again, into the hands, into the bag.
I admit. She did seem to look better after that particular volley, though I cannot say it was the same for the bag (or the hands).
They got off the subway at the next stop, the friend with the bag passing the bag to the friend with the formally cupped hands so that she could help the young woman up without getting too much vomit on her. It was a wordless exchange, and therefore wonderous.
I have no doubt they got her home.
I have no doubt they made sure she was OK before they left.
I have no doubt they remain friends still – or even if not, that it was not this incident that broke them apart.
Regardless, they will always have that perfect moment together, there in the subway.
They will always, at the very least, have that.