The Red Line
In Boston, the subway is called “The T,” with colors designating the different travel directions (Red Line, Blue LIne, etc.). The trip to Fenway Park from Quincy, my hometown, includes rides on the Red and Green lines. On our way home from a ballgame back in ‘86, a homeless guy stumbled onto our Red Line train and started swaying back and forth, looking for a seat. This guy—I don’t know what the hell happened in his life that led him to that T stop at that moment, but I’m sure he had some awful story to tell. His clothes and hair were a mess—standard street attire, but his face—half of it was an unnerving tragedy, a melted candle of drooping, layered flesh. He shuffled toward a seat across from me, but when the train lurched forward, he lost his balance and toppled into the spot right next to me, to my left. Thankfully, that was his non-melty side. I noticed he had a cigarette over his ear, and this turned into the genesis of our little “misunderstanding.”
He began searching his plethora of pockets for something, and sure enough, Melty Joe pulled out a book of matches, wrestled one out, and began trying to light it. I had a few moments of hope, as it seemed he was not up to the task. He was hitting his hand, he was caroming off high and low, he was hitting nothing but air, and the match was getting bent to shit. Then he nailed it.
The flame sputtered to life; without hesitation, I turned my head and blew it out. The train population let out a subdued chuckle, and when I looked around, I saw heads cascading towards the aisle, everyone leaning a little further than the person in front of them to get a decent view.
Melty Man was baffled, his head cocked as he contemplated the spent match, but he was not deterred. Out came another match. His skills were sharpening; this match ignited after about five swipes. I had no choice at this point, right? “Phooo,” I blew it out again. He wasn’t confused this time.
He stood up, faced me, and glared at me like a comic book villain, but he couldn’t maintain his footing on the moving train, and he sat / collapsed into a seat next to the woman sitting directly across from me. He started his routine again, and he got that match lit too. I was willing that little brunette to blow that shit out, and I felt my fellow travelers willing it too, but it wasn’t to be. She just sat there. He lit up.
The train stopped, and maybe she felt a few twinges of guilt, because she grabbed him by the shoulder and started moving him forward, saying, “Here’s your stop, Sir, there you go, yup, it’s your stop—get off now—okay, there you go, bye-bye.”
It worked—he left. He cleared the door and wheeled around, pointing at me and telling me off, or cursing me out, or putting a curse on me, it was a jumble of crazy-man mumbles. Anyway, the door closed on his arm at the bicep with most of it still pointing at me.
Everyone on the train was dead silent. There were only two options for what could happen next.
The train jolted forward.
Dude took two or three big hops to his right, but then his body hit a pillar on the platform, and his arm ripped off and fell into the train. There was a gasp, but everyone remained quiet until that fucking thing started crawling forward. The fingers were grabbing, clutching, and the arm moved about six inches at a time. Towards me.
On about the third crawl, everyone on the train lost their everloving shit. The back half screamed, ran, and bunched up against the back door; the front half, my half, screamed, ran, and bunched up against the front door. I was last, left to face the arm.
I moved left, it angled left. I moved right, fuck! You would think you could escape an arm crawling like a snail, but nope, it got me. I tried to step over it as it closed in, but it did some roll-over-bend-at-the-elbow maneuver and grabbed my pant leg.
I started leaping around, and I reached down and grabbed it. It grabbed me back, so I was in the handshake position with this sentient severed arm. I started bashing it against anything and everything. Bam, bam, bloody streaks on the window. Pow, old lady with groceries goes flying, “ohhh!” her sixties wig and a bunch of celery chase her to the deck. Slam, fat guy takes a shot to the chest and grabs the arm—we tug-of-war, but it won’t let go. Finally, I started belting it against one of the hang-on poles with a force that would break any arm, and I was free. The arm hit the floor and commenced flinging itself about. It managed to grab the Tupac t-shirt of a big hispanic dude who started squealing and ran to the back of the train, clothes-lining folks with the arm as they tried to escape past him. A couple guys didn’t like that, and they sprung up, produced blades, and stabbed the big dude. A few of the hispanic dude’s buddies didn’t care for this, and they produced blades too. Now we had a knife fight going on in the midst of our insane-arm-apocalypse, and people were screaming and shoving and slipping on blood—I swear I saw another, different arm fly past my head. The train stopped, and I was the first one out. I looked back once; something was on fire. I ran three miles home.
As seems to be the case with things like this – no news coverage, no nothing. I Googled it before I started writing this – still nothing. I guess it sounds like bullshit, but it’s why I moved to Houston and why I don’t shake hands.