A vignette by Editor-in-Chief Jacob Landau, ’22
I’ve never seen the wonders of an Aquarium on a weeknight; perhaps only when the weather has been too treacherous have I wanted to go. Who would bother to waste their energy climbing through the snow onto the purple line, among strangers, only to watch the fish in their foreign land? And even so, why subject yourself to such horrors on the train to get there? The T, among strangers, is of the most chaos in its joint captivity; everyone is stuck in a foreign place until they have an opportunity to leave. Amongst strangers every individual is alone. But among a search for swimming fish we are suddenly together. The T smells strongly of bland chaos in the sweaty marks of those past.
When we reach our first destination, each person joins together as they sense the sudden halt of the car and brace for impact. People struggle near the entrance as it becomes an exit; those who don’t care to wait for the aquarium are exiled from the train and pushed off to the open seas beyond this marvelous fish tank. I am anxious to go my own way and find the open seas of Boston near faneuil hall, where I can find the waters blue, swarming with fish of all colors. Soon to be greeted by African penguins, I anticipate the finest love as I watch men in black diver’s wear attempt willing excursion to feed and thus comfort the penguins as fish from the spire above watch their brethren devour one another in the basin below. Until then I’m stuck in a passenger car.
Once again we welcome the new people standing in the car. I’m lucky enough to have a seat as I lean back on the cruel and unforgiving metal slits and watch newcomers find air to breathe and a place to stand. Some people notice the fresh stench of human bodies frozen and pushed against one another. Others try to find a seat for themselves. Generally, people who have experienced the same treachery as I don’t care to give up their seats. Only a special few surrender their own to a stranger that they believe deserves it more than them— in an awkward affair a man, freshly maimed with a new haircut featuring an abundance of hair gel connecting the top of the hairs in the front of his head to his scalp, joins the masses of newly welcomed refugees to offer a seat to someone years to his senior. She exchanges gratitude and the utmost of ‘thank yous’ for the metal seat painted purple and stained brown. Outside of these cold-hearted and bland fragments of interaction the people on the train are stuck in its own metal walls until it persists forward to the next exit.
The low-lying chatter remains stagnant but it keeps the train moving despite friction on the rails. Individuals contribute in their own strange ways to the chatter— a woman in clothes for her work is on a phone call discussing drug development and the open market while students discuss how to prove the Pythagorean theorem. Two boys question who should start for the sox in the upcoming baseball game. They are adorned with worn hats featuring the Red Sox’s famous logo and admit this game is of the greatest importance as it is the beginning of the playoffs. Together every individual here has their own conversation that features their own life, yet together they decorate the purple line with conversation that counteracts the sounds of a train. Only once the train once again falls to a screeching halt does paramount confusion overtake the vitality of conversation. Once again I watch people surrender their seats and leave the train.
Mint gum ironically tastes better amongst the strange slurry of smells overtaking the unified people on the train. Generally, the train is where, in this ironic adversity and chaos Marty Walsh and the MBTA hope to alleviate, people show their most natural tendencies. A man in a black fedora and a beige-lined Burberry overcoat reads the times and enjoys a hot coffee from Dunkin. (He was lucky enough to be donated a seat from some innocent and pitiful traveler.) He sparks jealousy in his shoes— the leather encasing his feet and freshly tied laces suggest he’s walked around plenty. And I, of course, just wait for the stop near Quincy Market so I can go to the Aquarium and watch fish swim around as I do people on the train.
The exodus of individuals that graciously offered to the chatter to the T is vastly overlooked by people like me that care far more about people that hop back on. I welcome with a confused gaze a family that I assume is hoping to join me at the aquarium, the youngest child sporting a Nasa T-shirt that boasts voyage to the moon. The T-shirt similarly ignores prompt landing in the Earth’s seas after the ship’s arrival on the moon, as she cannot be land on one of the earth’s seven continents and is therefore exiled to the seas. I felt it was a shame to lose such a magnificent vessel to the ocean. And yet I understood this loss was necessary. Therefore I was intimidated by losing a spaceship in the oceans but somehow I believe a trip to the Aquarium is worth sacrificing this intergalactic voyage on the purple line.
And eventually I picture resting my hands for stingrays to glide under and walking to the top of the fish tank to get a view down below. The water is blue and people around me loud as they were on the train. The fish on the bottom of the spire in the center of the building hardly rival the fish at the top. Other than the occasional child and parent who stop to watch a turtle, most understand those at the top are of the most grandeur Boston has to offer and thus subject their noses to the strong salty smell of the seas. The penguins below in their black tuxedos indulge in fish and boast their gratitude.
I feel the eyes of another meeting my own as my brain unleashes chaos and searches for means to reason with this connection. Under the advertisements above the seats, there’s another quiet observer, possibly looking for New England’s most famous aquarium. Together we share a glance before moving on, noting a magnificent screech and yet another exodus on the train. I wish of them to learn how magnificent they are.
Suddenly the family I hoped would follow me through the aquarium left for Providence instead. The child in the Nasa t-shirt has grown since she entered the train; she still is confused with her lefts and her rights. Up and down suits her perfectly. She boasts her knowledge of the words on signs showing her to leave but has yet to determine the differences between definition and meaning. She asks what it means for something to be dangerous. Her parents, wary and separate, shrug and let their hair fall to their shoulders as the wind pushes them back into the train. They persist forward and proceed with awkward chatter as they define danger for their daughter.
The wind passes and the doors close. I let my concentration rest on the floor searching for defined geometric perfection in the midst of nothing on the train. I refuse to look simply at the mess around me as the doors around me open in Wickford Junction. Instead, I look on as the doors experience fissure and split in two. I much prefer the train when the doors are separate; the drafts make their way through the air and the empty space from the absence of others is filled by the cold whispering wind.
The last stop on the train is behind me. Suddenly I’m alone— no one bothered to join me on the train. The frigid connection between others was replaced by isolation and frivolously cold air. I never once considered what it meant to be alone in the aquarium. I look around at an empty train and visualize my chaotic solitude. The train car, once rich with love and lust for a trip to the aquarium became a missed opportunity to be as free as the fish as I instead decided to watch the greatness in front of me, not to realize in the treachery of South Station that I had boarded the wrong train!