Donald Illich

The Commuter

He always rode the same train
at the same hours. He smiled
at a woman with a backpack
who ignored him. He always
barely stood upright as the car
came into the station. Life
was assembled with the same
shapes, a puzzle that couldn’t be
broken apart. Then one day
he didn’t switch, didn’t leave
one line for another. He felt
panic in his chest, but couldn’t
move his body, like it was held
by a child playing with a doll.
The people changed, scenery
altered. A man with a mustache,
a girl chatting non-stop on her phone.
Now he was above ground,
seeing flowers and grass behind
a brown fence. He wondered what
was going on there, as if he could
have another existence. As he
continued on he wondered if
it would never end. This color
could roar on forever, into the night
across the world, or to another.
There were enough seats to sit.
He collapsed, dazed by chance.
He wouldn’t call his work.
Let them believe he was sick.
The sense of movement relaxed him.
He threw his briefcase to the floor.
Ripped down his tie. He hoped
he had enough cash on his card.
He was going somewhere, anywhere.
Wherever he ended up would know
how to help him. With radiant sun
on his skin. With dogs and Frisbees
in the air. With government buildings
in the distance, remaining distant,
a dream he chose not to remember.

Donald Illich's work has been published in The Iowa Review, Nimrod, and Cream City Review. To read more by this author: Donald Illich: Langston Hughes Tribute Issue