The New York subway is a serious matter — the rackety

train, the silent passengers, the occasional scream, the suicidal commuter.

No one speaks except to the person on his immediate right

or left, and only then if they are very old

friends or else married. Avoiding the stranger’s gaze is what

the subway passenger does best. Most sit bolt upright, with

fixed expressions, ready for anything. As a New York City subway

passenger, you are J. Alfred Prufrock — you ”prepare a face

to meet the faces that you meet.” You have to

look as if you’re the one with the meat cleaver.


Paraphrases from the article “Subway Odyssey” by Paul Theroux.