I stop into a cafe to eat dinner. It's busy but I find a seat by a glowing screen. I really should go see that Horace guy tonight. Lime isn't going to want to get together tonight and if I get this over with now, I'll have free time tomorrow night and maybe I can get her to stay over then. I'm so tired though. I order a Hi soda and two slices of pizza. That should help. The news is awful. It's always awful. I look around to see if anyone is watching. It's very dark in here and I find my handheldand switch on the back light to check my messages. Nothing. I pull the little alien figure from my bag and set it on the table. I really shouldn't be here. I shouldn't be wasting the USD on this meal by myself. I could just go home and eat there. I check my registered bank balance. There isn't much left for the rest of the month.
But I have that fake ID from Lime. Should I try to use it here? It's pretty dark in here, I could probably get away with it. My meal comes and I order 2 shots of caffeine. The pizza tastes a little better knowing that I don't have to pay for it, or rather that Lime paid for it. Well, technically she didn't pay for it either. I wonder how much will be left on here. I could buy some new sheets or take my laundry to a proper laundromat to get them deep cleaned. I can only do so much in the bathtub. I get out my note pad and write down a few things I would like to buy with the card.
Stock up on frozen vegetables and fruit
Toothbrush and toothpaste
I wonder how much is on there.
The caffeine shots taste awful but at least it's in me. Maybe it'll help me make it there tonight and back. I could use this damn card to get a ride to Los Feliz tonight. That seems like a waste though, I mean I can get there on my own and I should really be using it for things I need. Who knows when I'll get dollars like this again. I notice my hand tapping on the table and I have to hold it under me to stop it from shaking. I hand the card over to pay my bill and scoot out of there as fast as I can.
I guess it worked. Well what am I going to do? I could skate there. I could at least skate to the tunnel and see if I can get a ride from there. Maybe someone is running the trains tonight.
The lights are moving fast but I'm moving faster. The air is cold and I realize that I don't have my goggles down until my eyes are dried out. I click on some music into my headphones and the city feels like it's shifting under me. My legs are burning hot against the wind and my nose is screaming but I shouldn't stop. The gate to the old subway line is coming up and I can rest when I get there.
I slam against the fence. I'm breathing so hard but I can't hear myself behind the headphones. I gulp down my water and look for the lock. This one is behind the fence. I start entering my CASH code and let out a laugh at the habit just coming out of my fingers. It's a passcode. What is it? Something to do with luck. 7? 13? I spell out the word seven on the number pad and the gate swings open. I close it behind me and hustle down the frozen metal escalator in the dark.
My goggles help me see a bit in the dark but it isn't great. I curve around a corner and find more stairs to hop down. A few small lights hang over the tunnels at the platform. I take off my goggles but it's not enough light to see by without them. I take off my headphones a listen for the train.
"Hey! Anyone running a train tonight?" I call down the tunnel.
I should just look it up. Sometimes the tunnels are empty and I can just ride the rail on my skates but obviously I'm not going to jump down in there if someone is sending cars through tonight. The alert reported a train running a few hours ago. I might as well wait and see if it comes. I sit down to drink more water. My legs feel more sore than I realized. A few minutes pass. I hear foot steps on the stairs but I can't see anyone.
"Hey there!" I call out. I don't want to startle anyone who can't see me on the platform. They don't reply but continue down the stairs. I can barely make out their dark figure with a few blinking blue lights on their person. They stop under an old shattered monitor a few feet away and look down the tunnel.
"There a train tonight?" they ask me in a light voice.
"Maybe. There was one a few hours ago. I haven't been waiting long," I reply, standing up.
"Cool," they say softly and dig their hands into their jacket pockets. I skate up and down the platform, but try to catch a glimpse at what they are doing when I pass by them. It looks like they are trying to tie several pieces of string together. Are those cords?
"You working tonight?" I ask, as I pass behind them. They jump a little and look back over their shoulder. They aren't wearing anything on their eyes and probably can't see me.
"Uh just um... just heading home," they say. I'm probably making them nervous.
"Sorry I wasn't trying to be a creep, I just haven't seen anyone down here in a while," I say.
I haven't had a visitor down here in quite some tiiiiime! I hear my creaking voice echo in my head. Saying you aren't trying to be a creep is a pretty good indication that you are being a creep.
I don't need to make friends down here. It's dark. I don't blame them. I take my chance to stretch out my neck. And my arms. And my shoulders. And my legs. It feels like time is passing slower than usual. I sit down and try to relax a bit. I should give my muscles a break after all, that was the whole reason for taking the damn tunnel.
"Maybe it's not running," I say.
They don't respond. A few moments later I hear a tone come from their hands. I check the train alerts for this line again. Nothing new. I check the alerts for the other trains. A few of them have more recent updates. "The other trains are running, so this one probably is too," I say to them. I turn to look and they have jumped down into the tunnel and powered up a hover board.
"Gonna take your chances then?" I laugh. I can hear the nervousness in my voice. I've never seen anyone get hit by a train but we all hear about it happening. It's so dark and lonely down here at night though, I feel like someone could get hit and no one would know. Until someone else was riding the rails and passed a body. But then again, would you even notice it in the middle of the tracks? The hover boarder fiddles with their things and takes off down the tunnel heading east. I guess I'll wait and see if I hear anything. Minutes pass and I can't hear a thing. It's getting late. I should just go. I'll be almost as fast as the train on those rails anyway, so I'll probably stay ahead of it even if it's coming. Then again, I've been waiting for a while now so if it's coming, it's closer now than it was when I got down here. If I'm going to go, I ought to go right now.
I jump down into the tracks. I take a deep breath and start skating forward to build up some momentum before jumping onto the rail. My skates hit it cleanly even in the dark and I glide down the tunnel effortlessly. The next platform comes quickly and there are a couple more lights hanging but I don't see anyone on the platform. It's still early in the evening, I suppose there probably just isn't much activity yet. I wonder why the train ran 3 hours ago though if it isn't running now. Maybe that wasn't planned. They do break down often and there aren't a lot of people who are invested enough in the trains to keep them moving. Unless they need to transport a lot of people or a lot of goods. I pass two platforms. My ears could use some protection but I always worry about wearing my headphones down here. I want to be able to hear if something is coming, not just a train but anything could be using these tunnels. I wish someone would just put in some damn light tubes. The next platform is a bit further away. The tunnel curves and I wonder what kind of plant life that device would be able to pick up down here. I bet there are people using old tunnels down here to grow all kinds of things. There are so few subway tunnels that are open and in use right now. When you look at the map they only cover a small part of the city. There must have been so much more in the past that are just empty now.
I've seen maps of the subways in other cities and they are completely covered. It must be easy to do deliveries there. No traffic from cars. Lots of anonymity in the protection of the subway and crowds of people. My skates hit something on the rail and I have to reach out for the wall to keep from falling. What was that? Something must have fallen there since the train came through a few hours ago. Maybe that hover board person dropped something. Maybe I should be paying more attention. The bump slowed me down but only a little. I pass the next stop a little slower. There are a few people standing on the platform. One yells something into the tunnel. What did they say? Did they recognize me? Is there a train coming after all? I try to make the vowels make sense.
Ayooaye ohmee? Aye yoo aye oh mee... Aye yoo aye oh mee... Aye yoo aye oh mee... Aye yoo aye oh mee...
Who knows. My stop is coming up though. I lean over to touch the wall and slow down a bit. A little more. A little more. A light shines behind me. Shit. I can't see the platform yet. I can't hear anything behind me. Why can't I hear it? There is definitely a light shining on me. Maybe it's another skater. I turn around but all I can see is the glaring light. How close is it? I can definately hear a train. Really? I bear down and watch the wall for a ladder to grab on to. There is usually one right before the tunnel opens to the platform. I don't see one. I don't see one. The light from the upcoming platform is getting clearer. Where the fuck is the ladder? I swear I can feel the train breathing on me. I keep my eyes on the wall. The platform is getting closer. At least the train is making the wall easier to see. There it is. I grab the ladder and hold myself as flat as I can against it as the train wails past me. My heart is racing and my throat is sore. How did it not hit me? Did it slow down too? If I hadn't slowed down myself, it probably wouldn't have even gotten so close. I hop down into the tracks behind the train car and wait. It's just sitting there. I take a drink of water. I'm getting impatient and decide to climb up the back of it. I've never been on top of a train car before. The ceiling of the tunnel is so much higher than the car in the hole of the platform and I can stand up completely to move across it and jump down onto the cement.
"You trying to kill yourself?" I hear someone yell to me from the train car.
"Maybe you should have posted that you were running the damn thing!" I yell back over my shoulder. My heart is still beating fast. My hands are shaking. I am glad to be in the dark silence of the walkway back up to the street. The gate is unlocked and I swing it open and close it tight behind me. The smooth wall of the building next to the gate feels like the softest bed after the longest day. I breathe out the rest of my fear and start to remember where I am. These books.
I could have just kept them for a few more days. Then I could have read them with Lime. That would have been fun. We used to read old romances to each other. Or at least we did that one time. It was a little strange to read out loud to someone at first, but after hearing her read, and trying again- it was so easy to pretend to be an actor, bleeding all the corny lines that no one would say in real life. Lime had a special voice for the narrator that sounded like a car commercial.