On a Train to Babylon

8th Ave. NYC. 2008

The subway car lights flickered like those mosquito zappers we used to have in our backyard. I remember BBQs we had out back and the zapper would pop maniacally above the table. Every time a mosquito was blown to pieces, I would wonder how many of its body parts had landed on my hamburger.

It was three in the morning and I had just left the nightclub with some friends.

I’ve always been the odd man out on these sorts of excursions in the city. I’m not socially awkward; nightclubs just never really appealed to me. I usually sat on the sidelines when everyone flooded the small dance floor. I was fascinated by how total strangers pay to cram themselves in this enclosed space and engage in sexually suggestive dances, like bees communicating with each other through body language.

The music in nightclubs all sound the same to me: heavy bass and a hook. The funk and edge of pure hip-hop is dead and a synthetic form of music has taken its place, which is neither bad nor good. Change is just—change. I would sit in the darkness, close my eyes, and feel the vibrations of the bass reverberate in my chest cavity. Anything can be a surreal experience once you choose to let go of reality. I’m never at the club, even when I’m physically there.

Forest Hills. Queens, NYC. 2008.

I looked out the window and saw nothing but my own reflection. My transparent face painted upon a deep black canvas, only illuminated every now and then by globes of light passing by.

The minuscule details of daily life reclaim their significance when you’re moving at a high speed. Take that lady over there, for example, the one eating the cup of ramen noodles. She’s taking her time blowing every bite, sipping a little bit of the soup. There’s no need to rush. The train’s already flying like a bullet, going nowhere and everywhere.

Destinations are not end-points. Perhaps for passengers looking forward to home, that’s how they see it, but in essence, these places are just points along a timeline. The train will continue onward without concern. It doesn’t care if you missed your stop. Too bad. It has an agenda of its own and the plan is to keep moving forward, no matter what direction.