Making my way into the station, much too early in the morning, I descend the stairs, the sound of a thousand pairs of feet echoing around me, the thundering hooves of Tokyo’s workforce stampeding toward another day.
On the platform, the doors slide open and I shuffle into the car, a human zip file compressed among wool and down, beginning to sweat even before the train moves. Walls of jumbled body parts press against me from all sides, one to my left exuding a delicate camphor, one to my right reeking of old onions. Someone behind me sneezes and I feel his breath on the back of my neck.
A wave of sadness washes over me. I am a little mouse, caught in a trap, unable to move, helpless and vulnerable. A tiny moan escapes my lips. Tears fall. My reflection in the window wipes them away. Those around me pretend not to notice as we experience these unintended intimacies.
I remind myself that every soul sharing this violation must hate it as much as I do, but that thought does not comfort me. Comfort is home, my bed, my cat, my fuzzy socks, my favorite sweater, cold wine and warm cheese, not this oversized sardine can circulating around the city less elegantly than blood circulates through our veins.
Station after station streams past. People get on, people get off, a faceless blur like sand on a beach, roiling, eddying, always changing yet always the same. We grains of sand all look alike, bundled in our winter wear, but in the end are isolated individuals with nothing in common but misery.
I cannot fathom how some people do this every day. I suppose you can get used to anything if you have to, but I want to get used to this morning agony almost as much as I want to stick toothpicks under my fingernails.