Home > What You've Done

What You've Done
Author: J.A. Schneider

1.

 

I love to watch.

It almost substitutes for squeezing those tight little butts in their teeny shorts, those jouncing breasts in their flimsy tops. Such energy they have at sixteen! The whole girls’ track team yakking and laughing, feet never still as they point and shout over the noise, the heat, the acrid metallic smell of this train platform. They’re eager to get back. School just ended; time to lose being so-damned-good all year and par-tay!

I am shocked, just shocked. Why were they allowed to come to the city dressed like that?

Joke question, of course. That age listens to no one.

Between hoots they steal flirty peeks at the track boys in their own horny clusters. Hyped male faces just pretending to talk team stats, trying hard not to ogle those long, slender legs, those wonderful, squirming bodies.

My breath quickens as I watch them, letting my gaze stop, for careful seconds, on my special one. Her name is Kelly. The back of her graceful neck is sheened with sweat. Her blond ponytail swings as she gestures, shakes her head, leans forward to peer down the track wondering what’s making the train late. When she does that…bends forward, makes me gasp…her mini black shorts ride even higher; the pink ribbing pulls nearly up to what isn’t going to be the next generation…

…because she has taunted me. Cruelly.

But enough. Time to stop torturing myself. Tonight’s the night to finally, oops-

Look away quick.

Their chaperone sees me; checks me out so I, too, crane in annoyance down the track. Relax, Self. Deep breaths, Self. I’m invisible, just another guy in a wig and dark glasses. Terrific disguise.

I’ve checked her out too, the good-looking, oh so competent chaperone. Mia Peale by name, age thirty-one, dark-haired and dressed conservatively in her blue, below-the-knee dress because that’s what lawyers do, right? Dress conservatively? She’s also an assistant track coach and do-gooder volunteer new in town. Family law, says the sign before her quaint little office. What a joke, she’s a divorce lawyer. She’ll also draw up a prenup for you unless you’re too dumb-

“Track twenty-six, Grand Central to New Haven train arriving,” bursts the overhead male voice, sounding almost congratulatory to those lucky enough to be leaving the crowds and hot grime of Manhattan. “Greenwich, Stamford, Grand Cove…stand clear of the doors, please!”

The train squeals in, rolls to a stop, and the crowd moves forward. Mia Peale looks only a little stressed as she herds the team on board, reaches to one who stumbles (“Oh shit!” he whines), points another to the backpack he’s left on the platform. These kids are really idiots. It must feel like herding runaround babies.

But she’s patient, and really quite pretty with large, emotional eyes, hair worn up, strands of it flopping from her barrette onto her tired brow. It’s exciting moving toward her but I keep my gaze down, pass inches from her as I enter the glorious cool of the car. It feels so good that for seconds I forget why I’m here. Ahead, leafy suburbs and swimming pools and beach! Relief fills the air.

The kids are fast. They push through one crowded car after another – metal doors slam; I follow – then they slide into cliquey, close-together seats before drooping commuters can reach them. Overhead, the audio barks again: “Stand clear of the doors, please!”

With a swishing sound the doors close and the train starts to slide north, humming metallically through the black tunnel beneath the city. Faces glance out, see nothing but feebly lit service platforms, more black tunnel, and their own flushed, adolescent reflections. They fuss with their phones that get no reception.

Ah, Kelly, special one, did you have to sit next to Mia Peale? Look at me!

No, she won’t, the tease, the little bitch. Too bad, but I’m watching her. What fun, my getup really does make me invisible. Gray wig, bushy brows and wire-rimmed shades under a floppy canvas hat. No one would recognize me like this…although the hat worries me.

Who wears a canvas hat in this heat?

No one notices, though. They’re too self-absorbed to notice anything. How nice.

Kelly in particular looks suddenly out of it, her expression drooping as she talks to Peale. She’s had a bad semester, poor thing. A second girl facing them seems to be in on the conversation.

I keep my chin down, three seats away and across the aisle. At intervals I glance subtly up from behind my shades, keep my fingers fake-busy with my phone.

I wonder what they’re talking about.

Oh, well. I’ll see you tonight, Kelly.

The train surges, and lights flicker. The car goes scary dark like the tunnel outside, then the lights come back on again.

 

 

2.

 

“Just a little?” I ask.

Kelly Payne shrugs painfully. I see her eyes fill.

“Sorry, dumb question,” I say, wishing I could find the right words. I’d had hopes that today would help her.

She forces that straining-to-seem-happy look that breaks my heart. “No…not dumb,” she sighs. “I loved the show. It was coming out of the theater that sucked, feeling reality hit again.”

“Reality, what a concept,” I mutter.

“And Madame Tussauds after?” Her hands crunch the team’s printed program. “I hated it! Those figures are all dead.”

“They’re wax.”

“The Adriana Lima figure looked really dead. That place is depressing!” Kelly glances out at the speeding tunnel; then sees in the glass, like a veil hung before the ancient, blackened stones, her own reflection with dark-circled eyes.

She looks back, and starts tearing at the team’s program. It’s on blue paper with the word “CONGRATULATIONS” at the top. They won the Connecticut State Championship, and the day was a gift from the town. (What special kids we have!) The program, listing train schedules and the Broadway show Aladdin and other stops, appeared in the local newspaper.

Shredded blue bits drift from Kelly’s fingers to the floor. My eyes stay on them, knowing what it is to feel heartbreak.

Across from us, her best friend Jordan Clark groans and leans to pick them up. “Jeez, Kell, mess! Do you know what you’re doing?”

“No.” Kelly stares down at the blue bits. “I have no idea what I’m doing.”

I fear those words will haunt me.

But for now I just sigh, feeling exhausted from the heat and stress of the day. School ended on Wednesday; today is an unseasonably hot, early June Friday, and running around Manhattan ever is not my idea of fun. I speak from experience. So what am I doing here?

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