by Daniel F. Schafer
THE CHAMP IS HERE!
He’s boarding the Braintree train at Harvard,
Neglected dreadlocks hanging almost jaggedly.
MADISON SQUARE GARDEN. 1963.
His voice is mammoth,
it pops from his lips.
I FOUGHT EMILE GRIFFITH.
Hands raised like the mustachioed bare-knuckle
fighters of a century past.
KNOCKED ‘EM OUT!
At Central Square; A woman near The Champ
moves to the rear of the car.
WE TRAINED AT THE GYM ON FRENCH STREET.
MIT; He tells us he knew Rocky Marciano,
And that he’s from Brockton.
TRAINING HAD A LOT TO DO WITH HOW WELL YOU DID.
At MGH, and throughout the ride,
The man to his right is entranced and made deaf by The Journal.
1967; I WAS JUMPIN OUTTA HELECOPTERS IN VIETNAM.
He searches the car for approval,
He searches for recognition.
I GOT SHOT TWICE, BUT I’M STILL ALIVE.
He shrugs his shoulders, I will his gaze to mine,
A smile and a nod for the 82nd airborne.
PARK STREET. THESE ARE MY HEADQUARTERS.
He’s off to find some “Good Chinese Food.”
I’m fascinated. It’s eight o’clock in the morning.
THE ONLY THING I KNOW TO BELIEVE IN,
He says, with a warm smile, “is Jesus Christ,”
“Our Lord and Savior.”
Daniel F. Schafer, aka The Laundromat Writer, hails from the green side of Washington state and earned his MA in English on the not-so-green side at Washington State University. His essay, “This is the Train to Braintree,” appeared in the July 25, 2011 issue of TrainWrite. For more Daniel Schafer, follow him @TheSD.
by Daniel Schafer
The man stood in the posh underground at Harvard Square, deliberately placing himself below a murmuring fan that jostled his shaggy hair, causing it to halfheartedly whip his brow in a way that was not threatening and only mildly annoying.
Those first few minutes at the station were typically pleasant. The thoughtfully crafted brick walkway made him think of what a cobblestone street in 19th century London must have been like, or the fancy courtyard that lead to Emily Gilmore’s famous front door.
A woman strummed her guitar to the beat of a synthesized drum track and happily bounced as she recited Fleetwood Mac’s “You Can Go Your Own Way.” It was early, his mind was still lost in a morning haze, but her heavy Chinese accent, wide smile and comically phony synthesizer conjured memories of the first time the man heard the song years before. A sunny day in June. Early evening. He was about to leave his house to run with some friends from school before swimming laps or perhaps playing water polo. Afterward he’d watch Gilligan’s Island reruns and devour two or three bowls of spaghetti his mother had saved for him. The live music really was his favorite part of the commute. This song in particular made him smile. The man thought he’d give her a dollar if his legs weren’t so exhausted. For some reason his legs always felt drained after a hot, sticky night of little sleep at the hands of the Boston humidity.
With each passing minute the string of tight, knee length skirts and tie-less collared shirts swelled and became more of a hoard, edging the man closer to the yellow safety mat above the tracks. The wall read “Danger: Third Rail” but the pebbles cradling the steel below looked inviting compared to the raised, crowded platform. He imagined stretching out between the tracks, nestling in to the pebbles, and happily dozing off to the continuing music and the faint cries of braking trains. The man considered himself lucky that he hadn’t grown accustomed to his life as a part-time sardine.
The telltale gust of refraction blew in to the station, overpowering the kind fan’s efforts to cool him, and signaled that it would soon be time to shove his way in to the Red Line train bound for Park Street. It would soon be time to reach over a middle-aged woman’s shoulder and sturdy himself on the pole using only his index, middle finger and thumb. It would soon be time to feel his bottom rhythmically tap another man’s in time with the rock of the train and smell his body odor as he reached toward the ceiling in order to secure his own all-important stability, despite his glands’ effects on his fellow commuters. It would soon be time to cradle his messenger bag in his free arm and hope that a stumbling rider wouldn’t damage his coveted, fragile peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
The doors parted in a not-so-symmetrical manner, and three rushing passengers spilled from the already bloated car. The man didn’t look back, but over the rapid-fire instructions blaring out of the PA system overhead, he could hear the woman: You Can Go Your Own Way… And he wondered aloud if this was a bored artist’s attempt at subway irony.
“The song isn’t even about traveling.”
The doors closed.
Daniel F. Schafer hails from the green side of Washington state and earned his MA in English at Washington State University (located on the not-so-green side) in 2010. After a twenty-five minute bout with a runway modeling career, he resolved to rejoin the human race and devote his mid-twenties to exploring New England. Daniel now lives in Allston, MA and one day dreams of owning a 1966-or-older VW Bug.