Innocence Found by Simon Turkel

Sitting in a subway car with the lights flashing by out the window and the tracks screeching beneath. Late night and the train almost empty but for the stragglers sitting silently on either of my sides. Conversation rarely rises from the low and red eyed hum of tired loveless life with no person to pat them on the head and tuck them into bed and tell them that the time to sleep has come yet again. And when conversation does come it comes in foreign tongues. Spanish on my right, Polish on my left, and Russian in the seats across. The Russian reminds me of love lost. She spoke Russian along with the whole family and taught me some of it to help get along. The memories reeled relentlessly like sandpaper spinning through my thoughts as a thunderous series of jolts shook the world beneath me and the train came to a screeching stop at the 42nd street station where the Russians got off and from the platform came two lovers to take their place swooning with the cycles of the moon as they took a seat right in front of my very eyes. She wore a long flowered dress and he had a cushion of curly hair that kept him from thinking too loud. Not once did her hand move from his chest and not once did they take their eyes from one another. The people in the train secretly shifted their glances towards the pair in love and in each of their heads, in whichever language they knew best, they each and every one of them were thinking the same exact thing: why not me? Why am I not always smiling? Why don’t my thoughts run free? as they would if there was someone always there to accept them. And the memories of innocence turned sour, hung in the air holding the whole train hostage, stuck in time, never moving forwards, never changing, just waiting, decaying while death crept ever closer. The girl with the long flowered dress, with the hand that wasn’t held to his chest, pulled a bottle of bubbles from the bag hanging round her neck. She took from the bottle a wand covered in soap and blew breath from her lips filling the air with bubbles floating all around. It didn’t matter much if the people on the train liked it for she knew that her friend there would smile at it even if it were poison, supposedly. A man with hair greased back on his head and stubble on the sides of his face, the Pole, watched one pass right by the tip of his nose. If you saw from his eyes you’d see your own smiling reflection curved over the surface of the bubble. He cupped his hand behind the bubble floating and tried to catch it but as soon as it touched his skin it popped and there he was staring at his own dirty hands. One lucky Spanish-speaker caught one for a second, but that popped too so he turned his eyes back to the subway walls flashing by and waited for his stop. She blew again and from her mouth came my childhood. That popped too. So we all sat and waited for our stops and for our deaths and occasionally she blew life into the air that lit up our eyes and had us leaping from our seats, metaphorically, and running like eager children, with their mothers following behind for safety, towards nothing, blind to the shadows ahead. Depending on your frame of reference either you are moving towards your stationary death or your death is moving towards stationary you. And I guess what I’m trying to say is that even the best psychiatrist in all the world would never think to give you a bottle of bubbles.


Simon Turkel is currently studying creative writing at Oberlin College under the belief that certain stories simply cannot go untold.