Subway Rumble

Stepping into the dull florescent light, they boarded the subway together—a white boy and a black woman, he coming in at a solid four foot five inches next to her elbow. Yeah, she was taller, and stronger, but what did that count against his charm and impeccable taste in ankle socks?


“Quinn,” she said. “Don’t forget.”


“I’ll remind you when we get there.” He smirked, slinging his bag over his shoulder and grabbing onto one of the center poles in the car. Checking his wrist watch he noted the clock at the station was five minutes fast. Of course. He pulled down his robin’s egg blue cardigan sleeve over skin flecked with pale freckles and glanced at the handful of other people boarding the subway, the air filling with the muted cacophony of sounds and smells of a human city busy being alive. Most were understandably average and blurry, but hold on! That young boy just now was rather cute. Quinn smoothed his carefully combed hair and sighed in contentment, as he really did love cute boys, but also in melancholy, as it was just so hard to meet them in his line of work. Private investigating did not allow you to stay in one place gathering moss. Speaking of which…


Jewel, all 6 foot 200 pounds of her, leaned casually against the other pole a few feet away. Dressed androgynously and dripping with chained jewelry, she examined the nubs she called nails beneath a cloud of an afro straight out a 70s Soul Train episode. Quinn loved working with her. Despite the large age gap; he having just turned 12 and she half way through 32, their personalities matched in a way. He, a collected logician. She, a thoughtful pacifist, even if others assumed otherwise upon first glance…


As the doors closed and the subway lurched into motion, a man brazenly pushed past Quinn, knocking his bag off his shoulder. Completely missing Quinn’s “tisk” of disapproval, the man carried on and tried his best to knock Jewel out of her slouch, but barely managed to jostle her. When he glanced over his shoulder and noticed her not noticing him, he came back around with more gusto.


“Hey lady!” The man shouted up at Jewel. “You bumped into me!”


Quinn rolled his eyes. How predictable. People, mainly men—scratch that, mainly STRAIGHT WHITE men, saw Jewel and automatically felt the need to assert some primordial sense of control over the situation. Jewel looked up from cleaning her nails. “Excuse me?”


“Yeah, you heard me!” The man firmly planted his feet, the movement of the subway rocking him to and fro. “You owe me an apology.”


“Fer what?” Jewel asked.


Steam puffed from the man’s nose. “For bumping into me! Ain’t you listening?”


“No.” Jewel said, and returned to her manicure.


The man stood still for a minute, his dismissal going over his head. Then he shoved Jewel squarely in the chest. Hard. Knocked momentarily off balance, she righted herself and stared down at the man annoying enough to occupy her attention.


“Excuse me everyone!” Quinn raised his voice, doing his best airplane pilot impersonation. “Please move to the appropriate front and back ends of the car until further notice.” On cue, Jewel shoved the man back, who in turn swung what really should be noted was a decent right hook. She ducked, and boxed the man around the ears. “Please move to the front and back of the car until further notice,” Quinn called again, quite calm. He couldn’t help but feel bad for Jewel. She really was quite a peaceful creature. She avoided drama like the plague it was; people just had a hard time seeing her that way. “Excuse me miss,” Quinn leaned down next to a crumpled-up grandmother type. “Can I offer you some assistance?”


“Thank you, young man.” The elder woman smiled, and let Quinn take her by the elbow to help her out of her seat. Everyone else had already moved out of the way and was spectating rather politely, a few filming the scene for upload later.


The fight did not take long, and Jewel placed the man’s largely limp body in a seat to be roused by a subway worker later. Quinn and Jewel got off at their stop, along with the other passengers who went about their business with the usual noisy fanfare, executing business calls and smacking bubblegum. A fight was exciting in the moment, but hardly worth dwelling on long after.


Someplace Special

Although she did not identify as a man or a woman, and was thus nonbinary, she did not mind when people addressed her as a woman. It tended to make things easier.


“Hey lady! Hurry up will ya’? It does not take all day to take a leak and some of us have lives we’d like to get back to!”


Ro stood at the front of the line at the pay-to-port. Paying to pee via public urinal had been law since she was a kid. There was no point in dwelling on the ethics of it. You simply stepped up, deposited your coins in the slot, and walked in to do your business when the door unlocked. The pay-to-port she often visited was a hot spot, being the only urinal in a ten-mile radius. That morning, the line stretched indefinitely down a long dirt pile of a hill, a steady slope elevating to one of the greatest earthly pleasures known to man. Unfortunately, euphoria was slow in coming that day.


“Hey!” Someone shoved her from behind. “Tell who’s ever in there to hurry up!” Ro looked over her shoulder at a woman, all short legs and furrowed eyebrows.


“Whoever it is, they paid just like the rest of us,” Ro said. “They can take just as much time as they need.”


“Says who?”


“Says me.” Ro said sternly. “This ain’t a speed pissin’ contest. Now shut up and wait your turn like everyone else.”


“But I haven’t gone since last night,” the woman complained. “You know it’s illegal to go out in the bush, and I just now found a nickel in the trash so I could afford the port!”


“Not my problem.” Ro said, facing forward. She felt a pull on her arm as the woman grabbed her sleeve, still feeling scrappy. “Let go.” Ro said, restrained. “I don’t like to be touched.”


“Oh yeah?” The woman said, defiance flashing in her eyes. “Make me.”


Ro promptly punched the woman square in the jaw, the line parting around her as she tumbled head over feet down the slope. Ro heard the door to the urinal unlock and open. A young girl holding a stuffed bear stepped out and smiled up at her as the door clanked shut behind her. Ro smiled back, payed her fee, and stepped inside.