The subway train slows into the station and smoothes to a soft, comfortable stop.
It’s the fourth stop on my five-stop ride.
There are no seats available and I find myself standing directly opposite the set of entrance/exit doors.
Doors open, several people exit.
In the wake of their exit stands a rugged-looking hombre in his early 40s, holding a tall-boy of Mahoua Classica in one hand–the Madrileña king of beers–and a cigarette in the other. His dark green trenchcoat is bedraggled and frayed; his well-worn jeans end to reveal a pair of once-white tennis shoes that look like they were soaked for days in asparagus-alimented piss.
At his feet lies an old typewriter.
A burned-out writer, I think.
The ghost of Roberto Bolaño, perhaps.
Or the Spanish version of a Hank Chinaski.
His glazed eyes look at the freshly opened doors and back down to his
This connection snaps him from his paralyzed posture.
In order to free up his other hand he quickly pops the
cigarette into his mouth, which is surrounded by disparate patches of nine-o’clock shadow.
He reaches down and grabs the old hunk of metal; the cigarette-in-mouth and beer-in-hand are still, more or less, steady.
As he picks up the typewriter, it disengages:
The upper portion, or return apparatus (where the ribbon goes in) flies off its handle and stays in his hand, now about waist-level, and the lower half, the part with the keys, jumps, bounces and then remains still at his feet.
Now there are two parts to the typewriter, one in his hand and the other still at his feet.
He’s not even in the train yet and the doors have been open a full 15 seconds.
An oh-shit realization covers over his face.
He straddles the platform-train threshold and puts the tall-boy and disengaged upper-half of the typewriter securely on the train’s floor.
In mid-motion, one end of the ribbon spool falls out of the upper-half onto the floor, rolls toward the door and drops neatly and quietly into the abyss between the platform and train.
He jumps back across the threshold once again, grabs the lower half of the typewriter and enters the train and sets it down next to the upper half.
Then he sees it – the strain of ribbon that goes from the upper-half and disappears into the interstice between the platform and train.
So, with himself and his newly dismembered typewriter just inside the train, he begins pulling on the spool of ribbon.
30 seconds have passed at this point.
It feels like this stop is taking twice as long as it normally does, that either there is some headquarter-mandated reason for this delay–and is thus serendipitous for this poor fellow with the situation at hand (and feet)–or the conductor up front has been aware of the this whole episode from the beginning.
The writer-dude’s pulling fast at the ribbon which is beginning to seem like an endless rope.
The spool is underground and will not end until all the feed is gone.
He pulls furiously at this rope ribbon like he’s pulling for his own salvation.
Sweat beads begin forming.
The cigarette, near its end, is perched frantically on his lip.
The door bell buzzes signaling that within seconds the doors will close – ribbon in or not.
He begins to look like a cartoon character whose arms have turned into one ridiculously blurry elliptical motion.
The doors shut just as he pulls up the end of the ribbon.
The train lurches forward and in a moment is at its top velocity, approaching the next station.
A pile of shiny black spaghetti lays at his feet, on top of the dismembered typewriter that caused the whole thing.
The cigarette in his mouth is now officially out.
His blackened hands gather this amazing display of recently moved amusement into a small huddled pile.
Everyone looks at him and at everyone else in disbelief, as if to confirm via others the absurdity and validity of this occurrence.
The door opens for the next stop.
I cross the threshold, the doors close and everything resumes its normal position.