Remember the Supermarket Clerk Named Matt?
Everyone you've ever known waits around your Metro station, standing in line to exchange demagnetized fare cards, frantically tossing out soda cups before the security guards catch them, scrutinizing maps with lines resembling piles of colorful spaghetti.
Take a glance and you'll notice the fat boy from your fourth grade class or the cat lady who lived three doors down from your frat house during your senior year of college. The cashier named Matt who always cheated you a penny out of your change when you stopped by the supermarket after church to buy some licorice as a kid is there, too. He's just less pimply and less honest now. Maybe that's what happens to ghosts---they shed their minor physical imperfections along with their dignity. Vanity becomes their new identity as their bodies transform into more comely things with the baptism of death.
And it's vanity that makes the Metro so surreal. Ghosts, people who are deader than dead because they've lost their souls, wander from platform to platform seeking something. Anything. Maybe hope. The fat boy from your fourth grade class wants to travel to a place where he can be skinny forever and the cat lady wants to go somewhere that makes her forget that her cats are the only ones who have ever loved her. Matt the cashier prays for the train that will take him to the one location he can guiltlessly spend all of those pennies he stole from you when you were little, even though he already knows that place doesn't exist.
But the ghosts continue hoping because of the narcissistic visions they hold of themselves, the visions they wished so hard were true, that sometimes they forgot that they were just wishes. The eerie zoom of the Metro train is too fast to be of this world. It belongs to a dimension inundated by fragmented memories and unrealized dreams, soaked in nostalgia and pathetic pride.
I do not belong to the Metro any more than it belongs to me because I forbid it from owning me. When I stand impatiently at the Metro each weekday morning, as if my pacing back and forth will bid the train to come sooner, I remember who I am---not who I should, in a vain frame of mind, be. The tired faces that surround me remind me that I am alive, and am continually passionate about my work and life.
Instead of dreading the workday ahead, I clutch my fare card with the enthusiasm of a Each fare card is a ticket to a nascent adventure; every train is a spirit that embodies the hundreds of fare cards that correspond to it. Some days good karma hovers that spirit and other days, bad karma curses it.
I promise myself never to arrive at the station with the heavy lids and crusty lips of exhaustion, to never come to the station as a ghost, too soulless to speak or even smile. I refuse to be the fat boy or the cat lady because I remember the supermarket cashier named Matt.