The unfavorable ordeal of BART that morning took a major toll on Patrick arriving to class on time. For some weird technical deficiency, all passengers for the 7:20 A.M. SFO-bound train were removed from the cars at the Walnut Creek station. Now they waited restless, a dense crowd of some adults and business people and students, standing along Platform 2 that was quite narrow as is. Where Patrick stood, he was wedged between two tall suited men, one in navy and the other in gray. One of their suitcases, soft brown-leather bound from Brookstone as the label showed, was knocking rapidly into Patrick’s knees. This greatly aggravated the young man, who picked up his backpack from the ground and slid a few feet behind. He looked down to check the time on his watch, swiping his dirty blonde bangs away from his brows; it had been fifteen minutes since everyone had gotten off, and he hung his head. He couldn’t stand waiting any longer with these uptight adults who took disdain on his tight but bagged jeans and loose concert T-shirt from when he saw Arcade Fire when their Neon Bible album was out, on top of the fact that his bulging knitted red sweater had a huge hole gaping over his right bare-skin elbow. That rip he did himself.
Patrick kept his arms and one hand in his pocket clutching his iPod while he put the contraption on shuffle. Most of the songs he came across he was not in the mood for, but then again he didn’t have a set mind on what sound to listen, so shuffle would have to do. When he looked around, he saw that the businessmen that stood before him had moved on, but there were still suits and bikes, and on occasion, a pretty young woman, in the clearing. At least people were now moving, for the train was just pulling up, and the intense blast of wind running through the platform as the train whizzed by was strong enough to send Patrick into a chill and knock his wool beanie off. He was always fascinated by his reflection in the cars speeding through; as each car passed he loved the overlap of his image travelling from window to window—it was a funny sight to Patrick to see the cars go by and not a single movement of his reflection, as if he was magical and travelling on without moving at all.
This fascination put Patrick at a disadvantage when commuters were pushing past him and pouring into the cars, and being one of the last barely making it in, he could only stand smashed against others and held onto the rail overhead with one hand. Inside was no different than out, only that the room was mustier and the space denser. At least Patrick was content with the song that had just been selected, something off of Lily Allen’s Alright, Still. His beanie clung without effort to his hair and the headphones stood in place without Patrick really concerned about one or both buds falling out. However, one did fall out, when an elbow unintentionally jabbed into his neck. “Fuck,” Patrick nearly burst out, pressing his lips tightly just in time.
He moved, the heavy scent of some Old Spice product coming through, and Patrick was pissed. So he moved, wedging as much as he could towards the back. As clever he figured this move was, his space got no less compact than he had been a few feet away.
And the Old Spice lingered. What could he do to evade the heavy odor? It wasn’t bad, just strong. It defeated the purpose of getting away and avoiding physical battery. Patrick was still for a few minutes, the song almost coming to an end, and he wished the scent would too.
Orinda stop was when there was a significant shift in car vacancy. The crowd standing may have diminished by a lot but there still were not open seats. Patrick remained standing, but the chance he got to slide over across the car he took it without hesitation. He felt more relaxed now, and he was closer to the window. The view always took his mind off the long ride, and since it was very sunny out now, it was all looking up from here. But just as the train hit the darkness of the Caldecott line tunnel transitioning from the Diablo Valley to Oakland and the inner East Bay, he felt a familiar nudge at his side. And the same smell.
MacArthur Station. The trees and lush hillsides were gone, now Bart was surrounded by streets, freeways, traffic, and the Oakland downtown just up in the distance rising from the sea of buildings. Patrick made one last attempt to find a seat, and this time, before the masses coming from the platform could make their way into the car, he was successful. It was a window seat he had been eyeing, and thank goodness the frumpy woman in a purple tracksuit who just sat there fled out to the station. At this point could care less about impressions; he slouched down in his seat, readjusted his headphones, and put the volume up louder. He replayed the Lily Allen tune, having not enjoying it the first play.
Then someone sat down next to Patrick. It was someone slightly older than him, perhaps his mid-thirties, in a worn-down brown leather jacket and ripped jeans. The man was clean shaven, but his brown hair was grown out, a little more than Patrick’s.
He was the Old Spice.
A few more stops Patrick ignored him, looking out the window, focusing between the scenes of Oakland rushing by and the suspicion he had of his seat partner. The music was playing, nothing mattered. He just needed to get to Montgomery Station in San Francisco.
Just before submerging into the Transbay Tube, the man tapped him on the shoulder. Patrick flinched and turned his head, coming into direct contact with the heavy smell of the man. He turned the music off, arching his brows to acknowledge the man.
“What song was that?” the man asked casually.
Patrick blinked, still perplexed at the question. “Sorry?”
The man leaned over, pointing to his iPod. “You were listening to something earlier on your headphones. I heard it, not bad—actually liked it. Some woman?”
Patrick gave out an uneasy laugh. “Oh yeah! Lily Allen.”
The man sank back into his chair, looking up into pretty much nothing and nodding his head. “I like it. Pretty good beat.”
“Yeah. It is a good tune, isn’t it?”
He was glad Montgomery was next.