Mike is a Boston-area native who writes fiction and drama with increasing frequency. He is the co-host of "History Lessons With Caleb, Mike & Terry," a podcast for the ill-informed.
Alicia can handle the rain. She can handle the weatherman getting it wrong. She will not give up because she got caught without an umbrella. She can deal with the smell of old urine in the subway tunnel, stale, renewed by the water other commuters drip in. In some perverse way, the smell takes her back to the farmhouse where she grew up. An old tomcat used to prowl around, and the rain always brought out his musk. This was like that, except the musk did not come from a vagrant cat but from vagrant people. But she can deal with that. She can deal with rush hour. She can deal with having to be the jerk who takes the empty seat. Nobody wants to look like a jerk so everyone stands around, looking at the seat and looking at each other. Their eyes invite you to sit down but they resent you for it if you do. But somebody needs to sit down, because the subway car is crowded, and the more seats that get filled the more standing room there will be. So Alicia can handle being the jerk. Alicia can handle sitting down.
Alicia can handle being damp. It does not damage her self-esteem to be the only one not dressed for the weather. In the future she will find a more reliable source of meteorological information. She does not mind feeling a little silly with runny mascara. In weather like this it does not seem likely that anyone will suspect her of crying. Last week she saw a younger girl crying on the subway, on a dry and balmy day. It occurred to Alicia then that crying on public transportation might be the worst kind of hell. It would amount to the final failure: the dam of composure breaking and everything on the inside pouring outside in a hot wet mess, with dozens of witnesses to the gory scene and no means of escape. You might as well be skinned alive. But on this day the other commuters will assume Alicia’s face is wet from rain. They will not suspect she is in any particular kind of hell.
She could handle their suspicions, anyway, if it was necessary, and it is not. There are lots of things Alicia knows that she can handle now. She can deal with locksmiths at three o’clock in the morning. She can deal with knowing that for every roach she sees in her kitchen, there are about three hundred she doesn’t. She can deal with the countless petty insults, like paper cuts, that she collects day in day out. Such as the man standing in front of her, grasping the ceiling strap. He has neglected to shake out his umbrella before collapsing it, and it is saturated. He is holding it under his arm like a prop sword that has impaled him. Its silver tip is suspended half a foot in the air above Alicia’s leg, and water is dripping off it. She can deal with this man’s lack of consideration. She can deal with the cold water trickling down her thigh. She can even deal with staying silent about it for the twenty minutes left on the ride.
What she cannot abide is the man with the microphone.
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