Friday, February 25, 2011

Culture's Expectations

Underneath the city of Chicago, the business-like metro thundered through the tubes to a clattering stop at its next station. The doors swung open and people spilled out. They flew by in flashes of color and motion as they flowed around islands of people waiting for a specific metro. With less speed, new people boarded the waiting metro. Adeptly, the passengers bee-lined to seats. A few chose to stand. Before the doors slid shut, a man and woman straggled onto the metro. Walking as though they had not slept in days, the woman chose two empty seats and sat by the window. The man lowered himself into the seat next to her.

Elizabeth, a girl across the aisle, noted the presence of the disgruntled couple with mild surprise. Her eyes widened as the woman laid her head in the lap of her male companion. Elizabeth watched as the man drew a comb from his pocket and began to pull it through the woman’s ponytail-creased blonde hair. Elizabeth’s face scrunched as she watched this motion. She looked over the couple’s clothing again and took note of the dirt and the wrinkles. As Elizabeth’s eyes came to the man’s face, she stared. Like a pirate, a black eye darkened his left eye. Subtly, Elizabeth shifted so the couple sat more in her direct view.

With this movement, Elizabeth became aware of others in the metro. She glanced over at two teenage boys who scowled at the couple. Through clenched teeth, they whispered to each other.

“That’s gross.”

“This is a metro. Lice should not be combed out on public transportation.”

Elizabeth’s mouth dropped open slightly. She turned her chin towards the couple as her eyes flitted to the comb in the man’s hand. A small black speck fell to the floor. Elizabeth leaned closer to the window as she scratched her head. Abruptly, Elizabeth yanked her hand away from her head.

The metro pulled into another station.

As passengers streamed onto the train, people seemed to steer clear of the bedraggled man and woman. Those who sat near the couple ignored them. A gorgeous woman clad in a lovely outfit took one look at the couple and marched to the other side of the metro. Elizabeth tossed her hair over her shoulder and quietly shook her head.

The metro grunted to a start.

As Elizabeth fumbled in her handbag for her phone, she glanced at this man and woman through her eyelashes. Again, Elizabeth surveyed the black eye and the lice. A wrinkle formed between her eyebrows. As the train slowed, Elizabeth’s head jerked up to check the stop. Quickly, Elizabeth closed her bag.

The metro ground to a stop.

Elizabeth stood, looked at the couple, and turned her face away. With alacrity, Elizabeth propelled herself out of the metro’s doors. Elizabeth’s heals clicked on the concrete floor. The wind of the exiting metro blew her hair temporarily out of place before it settled about her shoulders once again.

(picture above found here)