The closing shifts at the bar wring you dry. You slump against the subway station’s cool tiled wall, a sheen gathering on your forehead. Tell yourself not to think about how lonely your toothbrush looks sitting in the toothbrush holder designed to hold two toothbrushes. Don’t play her Meet the Beatles! record when you get home. Make no plans to return her phone charger, which curlicues out of your bedroom socket.
When the doors of the Downtown A slide open, college couples exit—ping pong balls of intoxication bouncing into the night. You squeeze into the only vacant seat next to a man with his knees pressed together, oxforded feet crossed. He resides in the middle of a three-seat bench. His navy-slacked thighs press you into the partition.
His hands are folded in his lap, holding each other quietly. Long fingers, each nail buffed, rounded, and cut short. He may be a piano player coming back from a gig serenading wealthy diners in a low-lit room. All night he performed jazzed-up versions of “Piano Man” to accompany the tinkling of Tempranillo-filled glasses. He works in the kind of restaurant her new girlfriend can afford. Her new girlfriend has long, piano-playing fingers, too.
Your right hand with its chipped nail polish and bitten cuticles captures his left, intertwines it.
You feel his eyes on your face, and a drop of sweat licks its way down your spine.
He squeezes your hand.
Bits of him rub off onto your skin, exfoliating calluses you’ve built up since she moved out. The space between his hand and yours warms as stations slip by the window. These stations are portals to places where other couples hold hands for pretend. The world is full of people who need five fingers to weigh them down.
Ashley Lopez is a founding editor of Pigeon Pages Literary Journal. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College and currently lives in Brooklyn.