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"I used to have the notion I could swim the length of the ocean..."

It's today, just like every single day. You are settled into position along the long slab of subway platform, more or less. You rock three feet to the left or right, judging the commuter traffic at this stop and weighing it against other factors such as the presence of others on the platform and the time of morning. (10:08, actually. This softens your logic, lets it grow fuzz, because you know at this hour and this minute most people are already snuggled into their cubicles or hidden behind their Formica counters. You've been on a gradual, almost imperceptible slide toward 10:15 for the last four years. It is highly unlikely that you'll ever see this very spot at 8:44am again - that's a separate reality now. You can't go back to 8:44; you just slip forward until you become wealthy enough to call a hired car or poor enough to work evenings.) You want the third car from the rear. The third car from the rear is the one. Magic car! It might look crowded and loud and noisome now but in two stops it will deposit 60-75% of its passengers on another platform, leaving an empty seat for you and anyone else smart enough to know. You will sit. And read! And all of this in easy comfort for 6 more subway stops. And this makes you happy because standing on a crowded subway car has become next to impossible lately. You sweat like a junkie and you are prone to spells of dizziness and nausea and filled with a desperate need to move your bowels or breathe fresh air or push that obese teenager in the North Face jacket right out of his seat. And you consider all of this each day, from the moment you wake up until that defining moment two subway stops from where you are standing right now. Your whole day is anticipated by and agonized over the comfort of your morning commute. Just like every single day. And this makes you sad and serious.

You checked your face for signs of anxiety or anger in the reflections of no less than four parked vehicles on your way to the subway this morning. You are afraid people perceive you as the serious person you believe you've become. And, harder to explain, even to a licensed professional, you are afraid you check your reflection because you think you stopped existing approximately four years ago. You don't even recognize - you repress your instinct to recognize - your reflection one out of every 5 times. Others would tell you this existential crisis is a normal part of urban living, but you don't ask. And they don't ask, because they've woven that neurosis into their day, and they wear long sleeves to cover it up. And they, like you, like all of them, deliberate over the flavor of their bagel and the preparation of their coffee and the balance on their Metro Cards. And they haven't even made it to work yet.

"I'd plumb the depths of every sea for you, I'd escape from my shell..."

At work you have taken to ordering the same lunch every day, just as you think you will today. You used to deride eating patterns, or any obvious pattern, but that has all changed. You thought you were leading a personal revolution but then you laughed about that and decided lunch at a different location every day in no way constitutes a revolution. A small skirmish perhaps, but no more. And you decided eating the same lunch each day leaves room for more important decisions. You convinced yourself of this almost as quickly as you'd convinced yourself that your individuality was predicated on your decision to eat a different lunch every day. See how easy?

(Here's why you really eat the same lunch each day: you have become acutely aware of the patterns to which you're chained. And your lunch is still as significant in its predictability as it was in its unpredictability. You are embracing the foolish patterns and, by doing this, you are quietly subverting them. You actually believe this acknowledgment is funny, and a fitting commentary on the bland state of the post-industrial employee. You know no one else really notices but this - THIS - is the real revolution. Self-conscious conformity is the greatest act of rebellion against normalcy. Fuckers.)

(And here's why you really eat the same lunch each day: it tastes just fine, and you've grown content. Like the nice lady said, See how easy?)

"I had to contact you€"

You used to collect funny things. Now they seem like clutter. You used to clip pictures from magazines that whispered to you, and included these pictures (without explanation) with correspondences - folded into envelopes that were hand-addressed and licked by you. But now it seems a waste to cut up magazines. You can't remember the last time you ate without a napkin or drank without a coaster, although you used to find people who insist on coasters a bit pedantic and not entirely trustworthy. You used to care about so many things you now eschew and dismiss or remain oblivious to all the things you now embrace. You walk into people's homes and say things like, "Hey! I have those curtains."

"Ooh baby I'm in love with you, baby baby I'm in loooove with you€"

You hit repeat again, because this song has secret messages in it this morning. And you fix your eyes on the train tracks. That's when you see the paper bag creeping along the tracks. You adjust your faculties as you eliminate the possibility that this bag is twisting in the cold breath of an oncoming train. No - this bag has a distinct purpose. It moves along like a rumpled, paper animal. Its head, the end of the bag bunched into a tight nose, darts about slowly and chooses a new direction. The rest of the bag follows along in a cautious but determined creep. This bag sees you, although you hope the bag is looking at someone else. Not today, you think. But it's probably not today anymore, anyway. Right?

You continue to watch the bag. It picks up some speed, rustling along without feet, and moving toward the back of the tracks. You think it moves like a dragon in the Chinese New Year parade, but with an adolescent awkwardness. This paper bag is young, orphaned. You love this bag, this bag that up-ends everything you've spent the last several years arranging in a neat, easily indexed pile. This bag is the strangest thing you've ever seen. You awaken your dormant belief in monsters, fairies, the unexplainable, as you watch this bag move with familiar animal instincts. This bag is as real as you are - you have arranged a pact of mutual existence with it through your shared eye contact. (In that small moment, you actually thought the bag wanted to kill you but you've since let the fears associated with that irrational possibility subside.) No one else sees this bag, and you're sure of it. The train arrives, the life instantly vanishes from the bag, and you step on, not caring whether you sit or stand today. (You are protecting your real desire to sit.)

As you speed along toward your office and the screen savers that punch holes in, rather than express, personality, and the lunch you aren't going to order today, you have a moment of clarity. You know that bag was a rat in a bag costume. You knew that all along, just as anyone else who might hear this story later must surely know it. But as you hear yourself telling the story to friends and anyone else who will listen, you are sure you will always leave out this truth. You want to stop aligning your life along a 24-hour long stretch of details, and you want to start aligning it along bigger things you've only hinted at before. Not all today, because today is just one day, but in growing pieces every day like today, and from now on. You believe in monsters again.


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