The Train of Thought Problem – By Luigi A. Juarez

That coffee, that damn coffee! If he spills a DROP of that on me, I swear…

I have a big presentation to give to the faculty this morning, I’m squished between everyone else in the middle of this train, and with my luck this punk kid is going to spill hot coffee all over me. I just bought this blouse, too. 3.1 Phillip Lim collection.

I shoot the dirtiest look at him but what’s the use? He’s in his own world and completely oblivious to the rest of us, bopping his head to some god-awful vocoder-hop (I only know this because he and his Molotov Java are basically on TOP of my lap). But, I agree with Heisenberg on this one. I can’t keep analyzing the position of that coffee because then I’ll forget the other factors at work here. For all I know that head-bopping IS the thing, the ballast that’s keeping the coffee IN-HIS-HAND through all these twists, turns, and stops (which, by the way, are giving me a friggin’ migraine).

Maybe all the coffee in the world is secretly plotting to spill on me because I switched to tea. I’m a skeptic with things like that. I mean, hey, what’s one of the first things we learn in grade-school science? Liquids are comprised of molecules. Molecules move, so they’re “alive” to a certain degree. How are we CERTAIN that thought doesn’t exist at the atomic and subatomic levels? Ok, yes, everyone knows that thought requires a brain. But what if? What if thought existed in, say, quarks and pions? Superstring theory’s crazy to me. Brian Greene and The Elegant Universe. I like how in my field a theory is interpretation postulated, but in science, it’s pretty much absolute truth.

Sometimes, I wish I’d become a physicist. This world needs more women physicists, anyhow.

We roll to a halt and the doors open. I’m given some room now.  Only one more stop left, thank god. I slink back into the natural curvature of my steel, plastic seat and punk kid’s coffee is pushed back some. Like magnets repelled, Joe and I. I hear the “ding!” of the closing doors and it’s like I can finally breathe normally again, like I’ve just broken surface for air.

Good! Song’s over! This next one’s… this next one’s just straight beats?! I guess it could be worse. Which reminds me, I seriously need to update my music. The last time I did, I deleted all the hip-hop groups on there. Public Enemy. N.W.A. For some reason, whenever a member of these groups does solo material I end up liking it so much more. Q-Tip over Tribe, Fatlip over Pharcyde, ODB over Wu-Tang. The lyrics sound realer to me coming from one mic, from one MC. Maybe Black Star is the exception, but they’re a little different. “Best alliance in hip-hop.” To me, Black Star is more like a super-group, akin to Reflection Eternal or Slaughterhouse.

A mass of blurs dashes toward the subway car and I tense up again. It’s a family. Oh, god. It’s six of them, carrying a dozen oversized shopping bags and wearing black, oversized jackets with faux-fur frilly hoods. And oh, they have a stroller. Of course they have a stroller, and of course it’s gigantic. Everyone packs in, tighter than before. I’m forced to inch up to a new height in my seat, and punk kid’s coffee is in my face yet again. I’m so close to it now that I can smell the cream and see how the liquid has collected in small pools along the topography of the “spill-proof” lid.

I shut my eyes. I can’t take this anymore. My mind is Bloomian, buzzing and barreling through fundamental interactions (especially YOU, gravity), but I’ve got to stop thinking about this situation because well, it’s not healthy and I’m almost free.

The late 90s did have Eminem, though. I wonder if punk kid listens to Em because I, admittedly, still do. There are few rappers out there with his level of verbal elasticity, with those unreal, multi-syllabic rhymes. “The one man on the planet that’ll drive off of the Grand Canyon/ Hop out of a Grand Am and land in it hand-standin’” You know you’re good when Zadie Smith writes an article about you.

After the longest two minutes of my life, the train finally reaches my stop. Hearing the “ding!,” I open my eyes to see nearly everyone around me, punk kid included, amass into something of a line and spill out the open doors. I grab my purse and notebook case (my presentation’s on it), and slowly bring myself to the end of the formation. Glancing at my watch, I calculate how long it will take me to get through the tunnel, up the stairs, across the street, past the courtyard, into the building, and to the conference room.

Right on time.

I’m the last to step out. Crossing the gap, I look down at my feet. Big mistake. In that split-second of neglect, I bump into someone coming into the train. I’m knocked back but I have to push forward against my instincts because that gap is right behind me. I save my laptop but everything else clatters on the ground.

When I finally regain my footing and look up at who I bumped into, I immediately notice he’s holding a cup of coffee. The large man apologizes to me profusely but I can’t pay attention to him right now, I need to inspect my outfit. Looking down to see, remarkably, no stains, I wave him off. He goes into the train and as I start to gather my things, I think to myself how “ironic” that collision would’ve been since I had been so concerned about the kid’s coffee INSIDE the train.

Speaking of coffee, I could use a sip of that tea now.

I look for my travel mug, but it’s nowhere to be found. Hearing the doors of the subway seal, I stand up and curiously approach them to peer inside. It’s only when the train starts moving that I spot my mug, rolling away from me in the natural curvature of the steel, plastic seat.

Well, I’ll be damned. I left my tea on the train.

I guess I just wasn’t thinking.

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