Saturday, August 8, 2009

A Short History of Everyone In The World

On the train going
back to my home town
people are laughing at the
drunk who’s making fun
of the bald spot on a guy
a few rows up.
Across the aisle from me
a deaf man is making garbled passes
at all the women walking by
on the way to the club car.
Next to me a girl
with a silly haircut
is drinking a beer and
talking to everyone in sight
between drags of her cigarette.
It’s one of those
holiday weekend party trains
where everyone’s celebrating
and ready to tell their life story.

The drunk guy is going
to Richmond where he’ll find a bar
and drink some more.
The haircut girl is going
to Philadelphia -- she plans
on becoming a hairdresser.
The guy with the bald spot
has just gotten out of prison
and he’s trying to stay
calm and out of trouble.
The deaf guy is just horny
and doesn’t bother to read
the lips of the women
who tell him to fuck off.

When the haircut girl
asks me for my story
I tell her,
“I saved up my money
to buy this train ticket
so I could visit home
and get there comfortably.
I cut my spending in half
by eating my own shit.
Why I’ve been living off
the same macaroni and cheese
dinner for two months now.”

“Oh,” she says, startled, grimacing.

“Excuse me,” I say. “I have
to go to the bathroom now.”

When I stand up
everyone’s quiet,
and I know that when
I get back to my seat
I’ll be able to just relax
and sleep.
No stories, no loud laughter,
no more rude comments,
snide remarks or subtle innuendoes.
I’d put an end to that
because I’d just said all
there was in the world
to be said.

-Jose Padua
This first appeared in Michael Carter's Redtape in 1992, and was then included in Up Is Up, But So Is Down: New York's Downtown Literary Scene, 1974-1992, an anthology edited by Brandon Stosuy, in 2006.

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