59 in the East
Jamison Coates reeled from the stab of pain as it raced up his shin. The sharp teeth of his bike pedal had savagely bit into the front pleat of his dress pants as it swung wildly in a cyclical design quirk that Jamison would never understand. He ground his teeth and felt his nostrils flare, but he continued down the steps, guiding his bicycle down the ramped edge of the stairwell.
He could feel the press of humanity behind him in the patient swarm of commuters that filled this small train station each morning, emerging suited and tightly bound in thoughts from their humble homes. Stopping would mean impeding their day, interrupting their focused march to the next objective.
When Jamison stepped out of the covered stairwell, he veered right, and the river of determined, unsmiling passers-by split around him like a troublesome stone.
“Sumimasen,” he muttered to no one in particular, offering it as more of a general apology for his existence to anyone within earshot. Emerging on the far bank, outside the flow, he leaned his bike against a light pole and bent to inspect the damage.
As he slowly raised his grey pant leg like a theatre curtain, he spotted a small row of purpling dents a few inches above his ankle. There was a red blotch surrounding the tender impact point—a halo for the latest wound from his most useful possession.
Dropping the pant leg, Jamison scanned the small traffic circle situated at the entrance of the station. It was semi-crowded with taxi drivers smoking in tight, suspicious clumps and schoolchildren scattered in waiting pods, their matching outfits highlighting their ever-present uniformity.
It was not their unity that bothered Jamison, however; it was his own alienation within their strict, impenetrable bubble.
He glanced down at his watch, a silver reminder of another life: 8:50.
Jamison reached into his front pocket, pushing past his iPod to the recognizable shape of his cigarettes. Lucky Strikes were everywhere, a novelty that had failed to fade in the past two months. He removed one carelessly, past the point of counting or caring, and lit it with a Zippo he carried in his other pocket. It was battered and beaten and bore the Lucky Strike logo, another memento of a different age.
He shifted the weight of the zebra-striped carrier bag crammed into the front basket of his bike, ensuring that it wouldn’t bounce out onto the street to spew a bizarre collection of stuffed animals, dog-eared books, convenience store snacks, and Uno Cards. He hissed a stream of smoke towards the street, savoring the toasted air and the instant pulse of blood it sent through his veins.
He looked up as the dull canvas of clouds finally succumbed to its own weight and began to shed its burden. Jamison felt the insignificant ticks of wetness on his skin—those only noticeable if you stand very still with your most sensitive flesh exposed.
Trusting that a full-on spring shower was inevitable, he swung his leg over the bike seat and pushed off into the humid rush of the morning…