Chapter 91 of The Empty City

By Andrew Looney

The subway rumbled through the tunnel, lights flashing past the window in blurred streaks. Jim sat on the plastic bench, shoulders slumped, his chin on his chest, looking down but not really looking, his mind lethargic and empty. His only thoughts were of home and how good it would be to get there.

Several chairs away, he could see a young couple. They were arguing about something, in hushed voices, wanting to shout at each other, but not wanting to draw attention to themselves by shouting. They spoke in whispered shouts. Jim couldn't really make out much of what they were saying, he could only understand occasional phrases.

"You still didn't have to say that to him"

It reminded Jim of times when, as a kid, he would lie awake in bed listening to his parents talking in their room, across the hall from his.

"I just don't see what difference it makes"

Jim would be lying in his bed, with the lights in his room turned off, but at his insistence, the door left open and the hallway light left on. And since the door was open, he could hear bits of his parents' conversation as the words drifted across the hall and into his room.

"You should have at least apologized"

He would lie there, straining to figure out exactly what they were saying, or even what they were talking about. Sometimes Jim could hear them quite clearly, but at other times the voices in the darkness were distant and indistinct, and his mind would wander away to other topics, like monsters and cookies.

"I just don't see what there was to apologize for"

And Jim could always tell when they were talking about him. Sometimes he even thought he woke up when their topic of conversation shifted to him.

"You're crazy"

At the next subway stop, the young couple disembarked, taking their hushed argument with them.

Copyright © 1991 by Andrew Looney.

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