September 7th, 2004

Mask

Stranger

The subway stinks of floating farts, urine and sweat. Occupants press against each other in lurid poses, as if they were engaged in a giant slow-motion orgy. The thickly packed humanity leave a noticeable space around one man, his fingers wrapped around a stainless steel triangle above his head. He is tall enough to make the other passengers look like children, and broad enough to make the most jaded of them uncomfortable. His dark coat reaches his ankles, and he is watching a skinny teenager from behind mirrored glasses.




Stranded in the middle of the car, the bars, seats and handholds taken by other passengers, Salina sways, leaning against strangers. The doors swoosh open, cramming together rumpled starch, precious briefcases, drifters and stink, all caught in the shaking metal box. The crowd shuffles and Salina shifts in the mass of people until she is pressed against the chest of a man wearing a long dark coat with shoulders wider than her outstretched arm. A sharp black tattoo slices up from under his collar, violent and exciting. The subway stops and she stumbles face forward into his chest, her nose touching his buttons. His arm wraps around her waist, and she finds herself feeling safe inside the curve of his arm, rather here than tumbling wildly alone. His hand slips lower to curl under her plaid skirt and cups a tight cheek in his broad hand.

Salina knows she should feel violated, but her breath is quickening in the most pleasant way, and she leans into him, holding his coat lapels. His hands tell her how cold she is, her flesh and clothes icicles, his skin a contrast, strange, dark and warm.


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