Author's note: I wrote the following story over a year ago. I had originally intended for it to serve as the beginning of a much longer short story -- which might eventually have become a novella -- but upon writing the words with which the story presently ends I felt that there was a certain "completeness" about them and chose to end the story on that note. Perhaps someday the young man will urge me to pen the rest of his adventure. In the meantime, however, I submit the following version for your enjoyment. Let us know what you think!
And now, Scary-Crayon presents...
Two Minutes on the Metro
by: Wes

A young man sitting alone on the metro stared out of the window and tried to remember why he was going where he was going, but he was not lost. On the contrary, he remembered where he was going -- he was on his way to a combination bookstore-café in the city; in case he forgot where it was located, the address and walking directions were printed on one side of the folded slip of paper in his pocket -- and he remembered his reason for going -- he was interviewing for a part-time job -- but he could not remember what had moved him to apply for a job at a bookstore-café in the city in the first place. Money was not an issue. He did not have much, but he did not spend much, and had subsisted since his college graduation on money he had earned during summers in high school. But, he thought, even if he had been in need of money, he would have preferred a quiet job as a typist -- where few people would have bothered him -- because, for the most part, he despised people. He did, however, love great books, and therefore he loved recommending those titles to others -- perhaps that fact had A young man sitting alone on the metro stared out of the window...influenced his reasoning -- although in this place, the young man reflected, he would be more likely to serve lattes to animated paralegal interns steeped in chick lit than to suggest Kafka or Sartre to anyone with the depth of mind to appreciate their work.

"No," thought the young man, "what I would really prefer is to live a solitary life in a small cabin in an especially desolate region of the Colorado Rockies, or perhaps the Siskiyou Mountains of Northern California, where I would subsist on nuts and pine needles until my inevitable death from lack of nutrition -- and poisoning -- after which, owing to my emaciated condition, the pine needle toxins, and the dry mountain air, I would naturally mummify -- and there, well-preserved, sit forever, at peace, at last!"

From somewhere behind him there came a loud cough -- not a deafening cough, by any means, but quite loud enough to distract the young man from his reverie. This angered him. He spun wildly in his chair, determined to shoot the source a sharp look of annoyance, but upon catching sight of the old man two seats behind him, wearing a frayed and patched pale blue coat and wiping absently at a thick, white substance that ebbed from the corner of his mouth, the young man thought better of it, and -- momentarily -- thought less of himself for intending to scowl at the old fellow at all. In his slight embarrassment he checked his watch again.

"Seventy-four seconds!" he thought. "Only seventy-four seconds have passed since I last looked upon the face of my watch, and in that short time I have examined my memory, evaluated my situation, moved to the mountains, died, been mummified, and been brought back to this, ah, life -- resurrected -- by the 'curse' of an old man's coughing -- a man, as it is, with one foot already in the grave, and several toes on the other!" He paused and adjusted his watch.

"Yes," the young man continued, "time is relative -- or at least our perception of it is. Of course, there is some fixed, objective measure of time, and this has its uses; my interview, for example, is at 2:15 PM on a specific date -- today -- and so when I arrive at that time, they will be expecting me, and neither of us will be inconvenienced by any discrepancies resulting from the relativity of time because -- where the clock and calendar are concerned -- these differences are nonexistent, at least for those of us in the same time zone. But what of the other qualities that we associate with the passage of time? Generally speaking, the older a person is, the wiser that person is believed to be, because, supposedly, that person has lived long enough to have experienced much of what the world has to offer, and has had the requisite time to probe those experiential caverns and mine them for their precious gems -- their golden nuggets of wisdom. But, supposing that people experience the passage of time differently -- people are often fond of saying, 'Time flies!' and, 'Life is short!'; neither of these have been true for me, even at my young age -- suppose that an elder's perception of time is different, and that what the elder has learned in seventy-five years pales in comparison with what another has learned in twenty?"

''Yes,'' the young man continued, ''time is relative...''

Following the completion of that sentence in his mind, the young man leaned back in his chair and centered his gaze on the dark brown hair of the woman seated in front of him. Then he looked sidelong at his reflection in the smudged window, with the blur of the tunnel lights racing behind it, and resumed his thinking, "But if it is simply the experiences that one has -- and, moreover, the number of experiences -- that are most valuable, then people are right to revere the elderly -- but I do not think that this is the case." He checked his watch again. "How could this be so, when, in thirty-six seconds, I have thought through a little essay on time, while another" -- his eyes darted about the car and came to rest, again, on the old man, whose parched lips appeared to be moving rapidly, but with the distance between them and the roar of the subway the young man was unable to make out the content of his speech, if the old man was saying anything at all -- "has spent his time coughing and murmuring to himself. And yet! We have both been on the metro for approximately two minutes."

No sooner had the young man finished this thought than the darkness and streaking lights vanished from the window, along with the young man's reflection, and were replaced by a blurred mixture of rust and grey -- and spotted with various other colors -- which soon became brick, stone columns, and, finally, people, as the train slowed to a stop at the station where the young man intended to disembark. The old man was already on his feet, shuffling forward; the young man, courteous as he was (or tried to be, on occasion), or perhaps feeling sorry for the old fellow, refrained from stepping into the path of the old man and hurrying towards the exit -- which, the young man reflected as the man passed, would not have inconvenienced the old man in the least, given his speed -- and waited first for the old man to pass before following after. But the moment the old man passed through the doors of the car they abruptly closed in the young man's face, and at once the station became a blur, which gave way to darkness, the lights, and the young man's own visage, slightly amused, staring back at him.

...the young man planned his afternoon as many people plan their futures."No matter!" exclaimed the young man, falling into the nearest seat, as he thought, "The next stop is not far from here, and it will be no trouble for me to walk the extra distance" -- he checked his watch again -- "for I have plenty of time." He turned his eyes to a nearby map on the wall of the car and began tracing a route, and during the minute that it took the metro to reach the next station, the young man planned his afternoon as many people plan their futures.

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