To find your way, hold onto the invisible thread. Trust that it will reveal itself when needed.
It’s 6pm. Metro line 3. The orange one. You are packed int with the rest of them. The faces looks similar but not identical to one another. 90 degrees outside and there’s air conditioning, but with all the people pouring down the stairs underground, your sweat has its own sweat. Your skin is saturated and every few seconds a new smell erupts in your nostrils. Most of the time, it’s not a pleasant smell. There are clearly marked areas for people to line up, but lines don’t exist here. It’s all queues and crowding. This ebb and flow or ebb and shove. It’s like being in the Atlantic in August. It’s hot. You’ve been in the water for hours, but you’re still sweating because the sun is scorching. The shore is not too far off. You’re jumping waves, being towed, pulled, dragged, carried with the current. The rip tide is strong. Then you see it has formed – the mass, the wave, (the people) – and its moving and there’s an instant to figure how you want to navigate the swell.
The metro arrives, the doors open. People make their way out, pushing shoulder first, heads down, and people get on at the same time. There’s no break, just one mass gathering and breaking on the precipice of those sliding doors. You are pushed in several directions. Your feet don’t really touch the ground, just toes skimming, tip toes, feet on top and underneath your soles. You are pushed into the car, like pushing clothing into an already over-stuffed suitcase. You are the tallest person on the metro and there’s still people pushing, and you look around – this is madness, no one else can fit – but they all keep moving, one mass – like the wave – collectivist culture (oh right, I’m in China, you remember) and they smile innocently at one another, like when a toddler takes a toy right from the hands of another. Not a word is spoken. It is quite, mostly, other than small children babbling or the general hubbub of so many people existing. The doors close, the train goes.
You see all the heads sway, everybody’s body leaning and tilting, the zigzag of cars and cars through a tunnel you will never see the inside of except for its blur from the inside of the metro car, and you can intimate the slinking shape of the line as you look down. This is a long train. A small woman, with gray-rooted hair and a pink shirt is standing in front of you, you realize. She is standing on you, actually. Her rear is cradled into the face of your hips. You are spooning her. No one really says anything except small children babbling and the general hubbub of so many people existing. The train stops, a few people get off, loads more get on, everyone shifts. The mass swells. The doors close. The train goes.
No one really looks at anyone except that they all look at you. Your brain wants you to think its awful, wants you to scowl, but you know they are in awe of you and you are in awe of this life, this place, your feet on this ground. You look up. You breathe and see pupils and cell phones turn away from you, like the flash of a camera. How many flashes can you collect? And you smile at the insanity of it all because you are amazed by the mass – the collection in this car, moving at light speed. What’s even crazier is that every day, every time you get on that metro, it all becomes less and less strange and you think about time to come and you can’t fathom it, that thought doesn’t even stick in your brain because time moves differently here. It’s not the same and you are not the same.