Donna, a retired third grade teacher, was very familiar with rudimentary “paint by numbers” poetry, but she was charmed by how publicly Mack was composing his, given the subject matter. How modern, to write bad and lusty poetry openly on the N train. Ah, what the younger generation could do. Immediately she sensed a conscious smugness about him, but she let it go. Donna guessed, judging by his incredibly loud tie and very ugly shoes, that Mack probably had a more anatomical than personal understanding of his creative focus. And she didn’t judge. She never did. “I’m just looking,” Donna would say while doing a polite lap around a useless and overpriced gift shop. And she meant it.
She’d recently taken to writing lists on the train.
Sometimes she endeavored to make a new list every subway ride she took. It was a small goal. Obtainable. One Saturday, when she had absolutely nothing to do, she decided to take the train from one end of the line to the other and compose the most daunting list she’d ever undertaken. “All the lists I want to write in the next year.” While the train had passed over the Queensboro Bridge, she had written “What I want people to say about me when I’m dead.” Donna wasn’t sure how many more years she had left, but she assumed that once she’d departed that the word “nurturing” would be a common descriptor. Accurate but lazy, considering she’d spent 40 years as a teacher. That’s why it almost felt like an act of defiance not to say anything encouraging to Mack as she read his poetry over his shoulder. She was lucky she had her glasses on, otherwise she wouldn’t have been able to read anything at all.
So she read it all, but didn’t say a word as she got off at 30th Avenue. No judgment, of course. “I’m just looking.”