In Favor of Vowels

I saw her on the B-train platform.

She held on tightly to an old magazine containing tips on containing belongings.

Meanwhile she wore layers and was spilling out of herself on all ends.

Inner socks spilled from outer socks. The collar of a ruffled shirt popped from the crewneck, which itself peeked from a v-neck. Inner sleeves protruded beneath outer sleeves. And skirts were swelling below skirts.

Her grey hair refused to remain neatly under the kerchief tied below the chin.

She had painted her lips the color of a stop sign, but unsolicited smiles still escaped in rapid succession, and when they did her lips parted and one could clearly see that some of her teeth hadn’t been able to sit still in their gums either.  They had gone missing.

Her big eyes were restless, darting outward and back to self-consciousness (which seemed to be a thing confined to a small square of concrete by her feet).

When the train came she stepped on, minding the gap, as if taking a train by herself for the first time.

She chose a seat and carefully tucked all skirt-sides below her thighs, being mindful not to occupy more than one yellow hard-plastic seat.

I chose a seat near her.

She produced a chewed-on stump of a pencil from beneath her layers and opened her magazine to an earmarked page .

I could see that she had worked on this magazine as if it were the textbook on proper living. She had marked all rules and tips on the containment of spill-prone items. She had underlined tips on organized wall-boards, advice on storage bins, and opinions on the proper separation of cutlery.

As she moved the pencil over the pages she was mindful to keep her body from exuberance, she was mindful to keep her knees pressed together and her lips from mumbling the words. She was mindful to contain herself altogether.

It cost her considerable effort.

While the train crossed the bridge to Manhattan, after having stolen a glance at the silver river, which had made her gasp audibly in delight, she had to write a note of admonishment to herself.

She pressed the pencil firmly and wrote in the margin of her magazine:


For the sake of containment she had forbidden herself all vowels.