Sam Simon

Mamihlapinatapai

edward hopper sam simon

I caught the S2 at 5:00pm and picked out a seat in the front carriage. I know it was the 5:00 that day and not the 5:06 because if I wanted a coffee and a cigarette before work I had to catch the 5:00. The train was new and still smelled like an unworn pair of sneakers, fresh out of the box. I opened my book and read a few lines as we glided along the tracks, streamlining through the tunnels beneath the city. When we pulled into the next station I looked up as a school of passengers sardined their way onto the train, jostling for vacant seats. I sat watching the fleeting rat race until the winners claimed their prizes and exhaled in relief. A pregnant woman came up from the back and the hierarchy of train etiquette came into play dictating that the crowd part and the youngest passenger give up their newly-earned seat. Distracted by the new group of people to watch, I put the business card from the restaurant I’d eaten at the day before in my book and looked around.

Despite the temperate weather outside, the man in front of me was dressed in a raincoat with an umbrella nestled between his legs. He looked down at my sandal-clad-feet and his face furrowed into confusion as he compared our attire. His eyes continued to rise until they met mine at which point they darted off in another direction. The woman next to him had her glasses on her forehead and was moving her iPhone back and forth in front of her face trying to read the small typeface while tapping her long, pink fingernails against the glass screen.

We came to the next station and a handful of passengers stood up and got off. Two teenage boys boarded the train dressed in shorts with high socks and cleats on. They picked out two seats across from one another, leaving one seat empty until a tall, young brunette holding a university folder and wearing white headphones in her ears sat down. She was sitting diagonally across the aisle from me and looked straight at me. For a brief moment we shared a stare until she broke it, instead opting to change the song on her phone. She was beautiful.

Suddenly disinterested in the other passengers, and not wanting to fixate on the girl, I reopened my book and read a few paragraphs. It was useless. I skimmed the words, internalizing none of them while intermittently glancing up at the girl, hoping she was doing the same. To my genuine surprise she was returning my looks with almost the same frequency. I began to get nervous thinking about what to say and when to say it. The brakes screeched to a stop at the next station, giving us both an excuse to look up from our respective attempts to appear focused on anything other than each other.

As the train rolled on, the light from the station faded into the depth of the tunnel and the windows once again regained their reflective properties. I looked straight ahead at the man with the umbrella for as long as I could but felt the opportunity to connect with the dark olive eyes slipping away as we creeped closer and closer to my stop. I leaned my head against the window and using it as a mirror I angled my sight to find her in its reflection. When I adjusted myself in my seat I was able to connect with those same eyes as the two blackened windows worked to cast back a colorless gaze directly into mine. Could she see me too or was it just a trick the mirrors were playing on me?

I lifted my head off the glass and craned my neck in her direction pretending to stretch. The man with the umbrella, the two boys in cleats, and the woman still trying to read her phone had all gotten up in anticipation of reaching the next stop. Finally, after about four minutes that seemed to last an hour, we were alone. I stood up, put my book in my bag and my bag on my back and walked into the aisle towards her. “Hello” I said, in my head. “Yea, hello’ll do.” I took a step in her direction, staring down at the sweat stains on my sandals. “No, not hello. Hey, or maybe how’s it going?” I looked up from the floor and smiled at her. The train began to slow to a stop in the station, it was now or never. She smiled back at me, “Yes!” I thought to myself.

The doors opened and people started to get off. I paused for a second and stopped right in front of her. It didn’t matter if I missed my stop, the coffee could wait, “I should give up smoking anyway”. I cleared my throat and spoke,

“Hello” I said. “Good start” I thought.

“Hi” She replied.

I paused for a second, “Shit, what now?”

“Is this the stop for Sarria?”

“Yes.”

“Okay, thanks.”

I walked off the S2 and onto the platform. The coffee was burnt and the cigarette was stale. The next day I took the 5:06

Estándar
Sam Simon

An Alternative to Trinkets

It was definitely the little boy pulling the head off a live chicken, not the man defecating in the street or the smell of burning trash that put me on edge. This back alley was one more dead-end in a labyrinth of roads I’d walked, trying to retrace my steps to the busy main streets.

The equatorial summer was getting the best of me as I walked to the central market, searching for refuge from the unbearable humidity and thundering rain. When I finally arrived, stall after stall of discarded electronics, fake-gold watches, and Louis Vuitton knock-offs greeted me. Although its pace was lively, it was otherwise uninspiring and hardly the cultural essence of Ghana that had been pitched to me.

As I turned up a busy street and headed into the heart of the market, the vender’s shouts of Obruni and “white-man” grew nearly as strong as my lack of interest in whatever they were peddling. I wandered further away from the commotion; a tactic I hoped would lead me to something more than what I’d already found.

Sitting down on the side of the road, I downed the rest of my water and checked the time. There were still four hours until my bus was departing but considering I was lost in a new city, that wasn’t comforting at all. Shortly after, a group of young men loudly summoned me to their small shop. Ignoring their hissing and shouts proved useless and I realized speaking to them was my best option.

I tentatively walked their way, hoping they too were simply trying to get me to buy something, but instead, I was greeted with a thumb snap and a bag of water. When one of the men offered me the remaining chicken on his plate, my demeanor shifted from apprehensive to confused. The gravity of the situation didn’t dawn on me until a woman carrying a newborn baby emerged from the shop and everyone rose to their feet as she quietly approached me. Without uttering a word, she took my hand and placed it on the forehead of her child while whispering a prayer.

When she finished praying, our hands still intertwined, she looked up at me with tear-stained-eyes and delivered a faint squeeze of gratitude. The group dispersed silently, leaving me to contemplate if either of us understood the effect we had had on each other. It was clear by her demeanor that my presence moved her and her child, but she’ll never know how meaningful her faith felt to me. I walked away, back toward the smell of burning garbage and shouts of haggling. Back into Accra.

Estándar
Sam Simon

Gift of Gabo

The rain fell for nearly nine decades, then one day, it stopped. Nobody remembers the day when it first started and anyone who tells you otherwise is lying. They’ll tell you they were there, that they forecasted its grandeur, that they felt the first drops. In truth the blanket effect of the rain was felt throughout the world, but that’s not where it started. The light mist was wiped off furrowed brows and stone blocks before gathering into droplets, falling, and mixing with the clays of Macondo. The water carved out red passageways that flowed like veins away from their heart. The destruction of the storm was absent as lightning burned no trees, thunder rattled no windows, and floods ravaged no towns. Instead the veins gathered mass and momentum and as they grew they forged bridges and passageways that normally flowed the other direction; if they flowed at all. By the time the rains had reached their fourth decade the storm was known throughout the world. By the time it stopped raining its eminence was unquestioned. An empty cloud leaves behind a deep river. While the farmers can no longer rely on the rainfall for their crops they can depend on its rivers for lifetimes to come, with profound tributaries to continue its legacy. Generations were born, aged, and died without knowing an empty sky. Now future generations live with the ability to reap its benefits and the knowledge that a storm doesn’t end when he should but when he can.

Estándar
Sam Simon

End of line

I’m gonna do it. I’ve had enough. Enough of the city, enough of them. Who? Anyone, but not everyone. Just no one worth sticking around for. Pills are too risky. Knives are too messy. I’m too squeamish for violence anyway. It’s winter so the water is too cold. Besides, I hate what chlorine does to my eyes; my contacts are dry enough as they are. Yup, it’s gotta be the train. So here I am, sitting at Placa Catalunya waiting for the train. Waiting for my train. Problems always arise when you fail to think things through. Otherwise it’s just circumstantial luck. Unfortunately luck doesn’t have the power to trump a lack of thoroughness. Especially while planning something as elegant as my own death. In this case, the lack of preparation on my part has led me to overlook the fact that it will be decidedly more difficult to step in front of a moving train when I am at the end of the line. No matter, I’ll simply catch the train to the next station. The next train leaves in four minutes. I hate waiting for trains. I’m tired and I just want to get some sleep. I didn’t sleep well at all last night. I wonder why. Oh, right. Anyway, four minutes isn’t so bad, it’s only two minutes to the next station. To Provença station. Shit. Provença has guard doors, that means I can’t step in front of a moving train there either. Although it only has guards on this side. I could do it on the other side, couldn’t I? No. I can’t. That wouldn’t be my train, it has to be my train. No matter, I’ll just go to Gracia. I hate Gracia. It’s so boring. I guess this would spice things up for them. Who am I though? I mean to spice things up for them. If they wanted to be exhilarated they wouldn’t be in Gracia. Or maybe I could be their knight in tattered tennis shoes. I don’t want to assume that though. This is getting complicated. Everything is so complicated these days. I just wish I could get this over with. I don’t want to go all the way to Muntaner though, that’s like eight minutes. Shit. The train just left. Next one is in another six minutes. That would be 14 total minutes. I never even had my 15. I’d walk right out of here if I didn’t already waste the last stamp on my ticket. God, why’d I do that. I have work in the morning and pay day isn’t until Friday. What am I going to do now. I guess I can borrow money from someone or I can just, oh right, duh. Maybe I’ll just do it at Provença after all. I mean, it’s not such a big deal if it isn’t my train, is it? It’s not really MY train anyway. It would be.

Estándar