I run to catch the train. Slide my card at the turnstile and manage to jam my foot in the door before it closes all the way.
"Release the doors, you're delaying everyone," the conductor announces.
The doors open again and I hustle, grab a pole. The train jolts toward the next station.
A typical mid-May morning. I'd planned to wear a prairie skirt, peasant blouse and black ankle-strap sandals after yesterday's sunshine and 80-degree high, but the temperature has dropped into the 40's overnight and it's pouring rain outside. I'm dressed in a dark, bulky coat over pants that, until a few minutes ago, rested just inside my laundry hamper.
The pants, I notice now, are uncomfortable, and not just because they're tight; there's an odd, pulling sensation to the right of my navel, a couple of inches from the spot where the zipper should rest. Maybe the zipper has migrated to the side, catching a tiny bit of my skin in its migration.
I reach under my coat, pull at the waist of my pants to re-adjust things, but the zipper's in place. Maybe there's a stray tag or pin pricking my stomach. I scratch my stomach through my pants but it doesn't help. There's something in there.
The passengers sharing my pole look at me strangely, widen their eyes, turn away. Their scorn is worse than the minor discomfort I'm experiencing. I put my hand back at my side and frown at the floor.
My head hurts. A small purple light flashes in my peripheral vision, signaling the onslaught of a migraine from the wine I drank last night. The morning's toothpaste is wearing off, mingling with the bitter taste of yesterday's cigarettes. The wine and cigarettes were a last-ditch procrastination effort before I stayed up until 5 a.m. to finish a 30-page piece for a deadline.
I'm supposed to arrive at work at 9:30. I'm habitually 10 or 15 minutes late, and nobody really cares, but this morning they'll be lucky if I'm there by 10:15.
Morning Edition interrupted my sleep six times before I finally slunk out of bed at 9, bleary-eyed, and made some hot tea. I massaged my temples, drank the tea and listened to NPR pundits discuss the latest terror warnings.
At 10 after I brushed my hair, washed my face, threw on some lipstick. I slathered my hair with products that did little to help the afro that developed in the night after I went to sleep straight out of the shower.
What to wear? WNYC said it was 45 degrees outside, much too cold for my prairie skirt. All of my pants were dirty. One winter skirt featured a red nail polish stain; the others were at the laundry.
9:25. I had to decide. I threw on a black sweater with fringe at its plunging neckline, pulled a pair of pants out of the hamper and stepped into them. Pulled on some boots. Then I clambered down to the subway.
Now it's 9:45 and I'm convinced there's a small bottle brush in my pants. It prickles no matter which way I move, and it grows worse when I reach my stop and then race through the 1/9 tunnel at 6th Avenue. The 1 train sits in the station, awaiting a signal from the dispatcher, as I reach the platform.
I walk onto the nearest car gingerly, kicking my leg up slightly to shift things around. It doesn't help. I avoid reaching inside my coat, as I don't want to convince another carload of passengers that I'm suffering from crabs or lower-stomach eczema.
Christopher Street. I bend to the side. Bend forward. Bend to the other side. Nothing helps. I'm not flexible enough to do a backbend, not even a little one. I hum a song from Prince’s “Dirty Mind” album and the person nearest me moves to the other side of the car.
My stop, Houston, is next. I leave the station and amble to work, still puzzling over the scratchy, pulling feeling as I ride the elevator up to my floor.
I walk into my cubicle and set down my bag. Finally, privacy.
Unbuttoning my pants, I reach in and grab something slick and prickly. Aha, a tag!
But I pull the tag out and find I'm clutching a large, squirming cockroach between my forefingers.
I toss it, or it struggles away, but somehow it sails halfway across the cubicle, falls to the floor, and scuttles off. It is at least two inches long.
I kneel down on the floor to look for it, smash it, but it's gone. I decide against telling my co-workers that I rode to work with a roach in my pants.
In the bathroom, I gird myself with paper towels and soap, and I spend 25 minutes jostling around in the wheelchair-accessible stall.
The roach reappears hours later, staring up at me from its refuge next to the trash can. I hold its gaze. Hardy little fucker. Then I smash it with the heel of my boot and put the trash can over it.
I'll deal with the remains tomorrow.
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