Jim was sick of seeing the sad longing everywhere, especially in himself. It was ridiculous. He’d seen a sad, bland man sit near a similarly bland looking woman, on a nearly empty TTC train one night, and from the get go the man began to longingly ogle her. The only other people on the train were Jim and this kid standing a bit further down with music blaring from his phone. He was a fairly tough looking kid but the music was candied pop. When the woman got up and left, Jim watched with a scowl as the bland man moved over to the seat where the woman had been sitting. In her seat he suddenly had a look of intense satisfaction as he basked in the lingering warmth of the woman’s behind. The sappy song playing from the aloof kid’s phone had an abominable effect on the scene. Jim remembered having withheld the desire to spit on the floor.
A few months later, Jim entered a train that was about half full. He looked around for a good spot where he could stretch out his legs. An attractive young woman moved the bag from the seat next to her onto her lap and Jim felt that it’d be rude not to sit there now. He sat down and pulled out his book. But he couldn’t concentrate because the woman next to him was jostling her leg slightly, it would occasionally rub against his, and worse, she smelled nice. When it was her stop, she started to stand up and Jim also stood up, to make room for her to get by. The lady smiled at him and said “Thank you,” gently. Jim mumbled something, and then unthinkingly sat down in her seat, as it was a window seat. He noticed the still very present warmth of her bum. It hugged his and he almost smiled and felt like closing his eyes and sighing a little. But then he remembered the bland man and regained his composure. Packing away his book, he pondered, while still enjoying the warmth.
Jim had spent the last couple years responding to a personal crisis of meaning and he now saw his only source of hope was to live life here on the ground, not in the mind or the screen, or in other forms of escape. This was his chief concern about the lingering butt warmth: the girl was gone. It was just some fantasy that remained, like a cheap way of distracting himself from, while simultaneously deepening, the lack he felt. Jim supposed it would have been okay to merely enjoy the feeling of having his butt warmed on the subway there, but would he feel the same way if it was the seat of some fat, dirty construction worker? No, he’d be repulsed. But was the warmth, the energy, any different? A cold-blooded creature wouldn’t care. But he was no reptile. Was he?
He thought about moving to a cold, untainted spot, but then felt adamant about not. He liked the woman and he’d been lonely for a while and always practically, because even when he was with a woman, he really wasn’t there, and neither was she. He was bothered by the fact that it being the warmth from a pretty woman somehow legitimated the enjoyment of it in his patriarchally warped mind, but he couldn’t easily erase these effects of his socialization. At least the butt warmth came from a real woman, even if she was now gone. But wasn’t it this kind of weird settling for literal leftovers that prevented him from actually initiating real relationships? But further, wasn’t this second guessing of everything also anathema to living in the embodied moment? It smelled a bit like Christian self-flagellation and confession. Should he have said something to her maybe? But what would he have said? If it was something that came directly from his feelings, like “you smell nice,” it would’ve been weird, and if it was something designed to be less weird, that’d even be weirder, like some sort of ‘pick-up artist’ asshole would do. Should he just accept that he might seem weird at first? But if he were talking to her anyways he’d probably be doing it with some intention for the future, to date her or something, and that meant that the whole thing would be fucked from the get go because he wasn’t living in the moment, but being a slave to the future, and to reified concepts of the self, of love and relationships, and oh so many things. Jim felt doomed. He got up out of the seat and went to leave. But then he realized that the train was a couple minutes from his stop, so he just stood there shaking.
Mitchell Mathews is trying to get out of his head. Writing does not seem to help. Over the next couple months, he’ll be heading north from LA.