Staring Problem

I sat there, waiting for the number four train into Manhattan. I sat there, staring.

I started at the wooden bench I was sitting on. I’ve never seen a seat like this at a subway stop before. It was warm to my touch, without a row of graffiti marking or knife carvings nor globs of gum sticking to its arms. I wondered how many homeless men fell asleep on this bench. It is surprisingly cozy. If I wanted to be rude and refuse others a resting place, I’d stretch out my legs and finish reading the book I was lent. But I’m comfortable where I’m at, in this little corner of the long, worn chair.

I’m staring at the book I’m reading, glancing over the page’s first paragraph over and over again. I don’t remember how many times I’ve gone through these lines. The author’s words break my heart, a story about a single mother trying to care for her children with the support of a lone welfare check. The woman has no education and I wonder if I will end up like her one day, living off food stamps and handouts from strangers. I tell myself that I won’t be like that but then again, I can’t remember the last time I ate a proper meal.

I stare at the ring on my engagement finger. It sparkles even in the low light of the platform. I’m sure that most cubic zirconias shimmer like the one I wear. I’ve had many ask me when my wedding date was. I’d smile and say, in the fall. I always thought September weddings had a particular beauty to them. I see myself at my own, wearing a dress of lace, carrying a bouquet of bright red poppies. But those are lies; lies that I feed to myself and others. These dreams are lies, dreams that I know will never come true. Lies. Like like this phony engagement ring. The man I sit next to smell just like you. A mix of sweat and cigarettes. It’s you I dream of giving me a ring like this one day but I know that will never happen.

My train approaches the platform. I stare at it and get up to board.

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