On the 7 train
A Chinese woman on the 7 train headed toward Manhattan sat with a red plastic bag between her feet. It was translucent, cheap, and in it were one head of iceberg lettuce and four packs of beef-flavored Raman noodles stacked neatly so that the labels were aligned.
She moved her lips while looking straight ahead. Sometimes soft but indistinguishable words escaped; sometimes her lips moved silently. Wordlessly. Her bottom two middle teeth were shaped like miniature razor clams, turned inward, their top edges chiseled and jagged from use. Her silver rimmed glasses were rectangles with rounded corners. To the outside of each lens were smaller rectangles filled with tiny fake diamonds. Her eyeballs moved delicately beneath thin beige lids—like tiny marbles inside thinning flesh sacks they floated up and down rhythmically with her words. Her hair was black and shiny with a single silver thread woven in unwittingly every quarter inch or so. I could have counted them. Each cheek looked like a side satchel with a tiny pillow in it. She occasionally poked her forehead two or three times and made gestures, doing both with her right hand. Her left hand rested in her lap.
A black man—or maybe it was a woman—with four or five pigtails waterfalling from under a rain hat stared down at her and frowned slightly. His generous lips were slightly pursed, as if to underscore the disapproval that his brow started. His lips looked carved as if from sandstone. He stared, unmoving. His leather coat was the color of cappuccino. He wore gray sweatpants.
A Mexican man of about thirty sitting to the left of the Chinese woman looked asleep. His right hand was folded over the wrist of his right hand. He wore an Abercrombie ballcap and had white EarPods in. He had heavy acne. His face was at rest.
At Times Square, the Chinese woman reached down and took her bag. She exited the subway and walked away in black houndstooth pants.