when alex and stacy got on the train the only other people on it were two shapeless humans in clothing heavier than the weather warranted, seated across from each other.
they both had shopping bags and green garbage bags in the aisle in front of them, which would have blocked other passengers if there had been any, and they were having an animated conversation.
alex moved close enough to them to hear what they were saying, and stacy, with a look of annoyance, followed.
the one in the red coat was saying, “i don’t care how many times i let you use it - it’s still mine! mine!”
the one in the blue coat retorted, “prove it! prove it! get a lawyer and prove it!”
red coat: “you wouldn’t talk like that if bill brown was still chief of police!”
blue coat: “but prices are still going up, aren’t they?”
red coat: “what’s that got to do with anything?”
blue coat: “what’s anything got to do with anything?”
they fell silent for about thirty seconds. then red coat started up again.
“meryl streep was great in her last movie. she’s the greatest actress ever.”
blue coat: “meryl streep sucks! totally sucks!”
red coat: “you shouldn’t talk like that.”
blue coat: “what, to say ’suck’? everybody talks like that now, stupid.”
red coat: “that doesn’t mean they should. and don’t call me stupid. especially if you want to use my stuff.”
blue coat: “you don’t see godzilla or king kong rising up out of the sea and swallowing the city, do you?”
at this point alex’s and stacy’s stop came up and they got off.
they walked the three blocks to alex’s apartment without speaking. stacy had been sleeping on alex’s couch for about two weeks since arriving in the city.
“that was great, wasn’t it?“ alex said when they were back in the apartment.
“what was great?”
“those two bag people on the train. i should have tried to record it.”
“you know,” said stacy, “nothing personal, you understand, but i think it’s kind of creepy the way you like to listen to people’s conversations.”
“what? i’m just interested in people, that’s all. should i just sit on my ass all day and take selfies like the rest of the human race?”
“i just think it’s creepy. you are invading their space.”
“space? they don’t have any space. they are doing their business for all to see and hear.”
“yes, because capitalist society forces them to. that doesn’t mean you should take advantage of them.”
“you know,” said alex. “it wasn’t that long ago that people didn’t think anything of starting up conversations with complete strangers.”
“i think it was that long ago. before my time, anyway. i’m happy to say.”
“even with children. my grandfather told me when he was a little boy people would just stop and talk to him on the street. just stop and say ‘hi there, little feller, nice day today’ or whatever. with his mother there or not.”
“they didn’t have data banks back then, i guess perverts just ran wild.”
“what, now you are implying i’m a pervert on top of being a creep?”
“oh, don’t be so sensitive. i didn’t say you were a pervert, although your attitude might be seen as enabling them.”
“thank you for clearing that up.”
“and how did your grandfather react to these cheery old souls?”
“i asked him that myself. he said it didn’t thrill him, but it didn’t traumatize him either.”
“he says. he thinks. i bet he still has nightmares about it.”
“i’m making some tea,” said alex. “do you want some?”