On the train the other day I was minding my business, staring out of empty eyes through dirty windows, pretending I didn’t hear the kids fighting two seats back, or the cough of the lady in front of me. You know, that understood peace that borders on madness, early in the morning or late in the evening–when we all want nothing more than to go home, sleep, relax. When the doors opened on 8th and Market I slid closer into the wall, trying to make myself as small as possible, in case someone needed to share the seat, and as often happens during rush hour, someone calmly slid in next to me, turning just the right, polite angle away from me, so as to not puncture my space. But when we started moving again, the doors whirring closed, a broken whistle announcing our departure, the quiet form beside me began to tap.
At first, just his feet, making a slow, steady rhythm on the belly of the train. Then his fingers drummed his knees and his head nodded the beat and words came out.
Now my seat partner, this man who sat so calmly next to me, was alive with rhythm, speaking quietly at first, almost a whisper that only he and I shared.
These people, these ladies, these men
and I turned slightly toward him, to catch his words
they here, on they phones, readin’ they books, ignoring the world
I quickly tucked my phone into my pocket.
But this world, it’s shit. A shit place. We got rapers, molestors, murderers. People hurtin’ kids, people carryin’ guns.
And as the train swayed patiently across the Ben Franklin Bridge, he moved, hopping from my seat to the next, his voice getting louder.
This lady here, she a nurse. She’s savin’ lives, meanwhile we got death on the streets.
He moved again.
This man, in his suit, with his briefcase, he work all day just to sleep, just to eat.
And the train stirred, uneasy bodies and minds, people shuffled their bags, turned their heads, pretended not to hear, but they knew.
It’s all around us, people, but we blind. We don’t see.
That was the day I met my new favorite philosopher.
I never did learn his name.