Hands and Knees

The missing pixel on my Google Pixel is a lime-lit reminder each time I swipe by it of potential electrocution; a retribution for my dumb brush with inconvenience, a rash morning rush grievance, when my cellphone somersaulted six feet down, slipped cleanly out of my sweaty, caffeinated, manicured hand and splat screen down on the subway track’s wooden slats as I gasped and grasped at air, at passersby, my pencil skirt too tight, the platform too high and the train in sight, its headlights oncoming and me blubbering, flailing and flubbing for firm footing, or a helping hand, when right then a man (whose next move I’ll never understand) dropped his brown knees and brown boots and brown hands into the ground, as curious heads glowered down and he teetered in the center track, feet neat, and retrieved my phone in one reach. My phone, with its crack-proof case and candy heart paint was unscathed, but his knees were scraped: knobby and pebbly and bloodied and metally, and I took stock of his blue collar look, so doled out ten dollars for risking shock, for being my shining white but not white knight; and I, frazzled and fraught with white guilt, in the fluorescent light as the subway’s doors opened wide, said “thank you” (implied: this phone is my life) and he said, “it’s aight” and inquired if the phone was, indeed, alright, then showed me the lines that spiderwebbed his own, and I said something hollow like, “I know how that goes.”  We rode the same car in silence – me standing, him sitting – and I fragmented my frizz with my fingers in a futile, feverish fiddling to avoid his gaze, his buzzed scalp, his sick-of-this-shit daze, his hazel eyes locked on his paint-splattered palms or maybe lost in the ways we volley our days and play mental race games on this voyage, walled in by the years of violence, hung heavy and layered in the balance like an invisible valence that suffocates his stubbled throat with stale, stagnant subway air until it stirs to a stop at my station, where I padded his shoulder in gratitude, a microaggression I’m reminded of each time I thumb the microabrasion on my phone.

© 2022 Andrea Festa