Last night, I sat on the Metro platform, on one of the wide granite stumps that might be bases for some future colossal statues of movie stars, but where people currently wait for the train. My head hung between my knees with despair at the unduly long length of the voyage longness. If you don’t hit the trains at just the right time, the trip takes forever. I’d just been to therapy, where I’d whined for an hour about finances.
And I had just been fooled by that goddamned Wilshire/Western train, thinking it was the North Hollywood train and I ended up back at Wilshire/Western again where I had to wait once more for the Union Station train to take me back to Wilshire/Vermont where I got off and had to sit around forever to again wait for the North Hollywood train…
(If you’ve taken the Red Line in Los Angeles, you understand what I’m talking about and you feel my pain)
So, yes, tired, irritated, and wondering if I should throw myself in front of the North Hollywood train if it ever finally arrived, or should actually get on it this time, staring at my shoes in the pose of a constipated dad reading the newspaper…I saw it…
…on the floor…
…by my left foot…
…the Dreadful Talon of the Underground.
It was a big toenail cutting.
Not just any big toenail cutting.
It was like a long slim sliver of sliced almond, the color of eggnog gone bad, the shape of a new crescent moon as drawn by a child or a drug addict.
For the sake of my own emotional and mental self-protection, I silently denied the truth: “It is not a cheddar-colored cutting from a large man’s big toe toenail. No. It is certainly not that. No. No. Not that.” And I stared at it a long time, my creative mind going to work scanning all sorts of random notions in a desperate attempt to re-identify the thing.
But the best alternative I could come up with was: “Crescent-shaped curve the width of a large man’s big toe tonail with a translucent plasticky consistency and a sheen that suggests it might have spent many dark hours at the bottom of a shoe…which MUST NOT BE a toenail clipping.”
But there was no denying the truth.
I wanted to touch the toenail – in the same way you might want to touch a piece of cat poo if it showed up on your plate at a restaurant. You’d say: “Can that REALLY be cat poo?” And, just to confirm the nightmare truth, you’d have to give it a poke.
I didn’t touch the toenail. But I did begin to weep. Or nearly so.
The toenail and I spent many more long silent minutes together. When the North Hollywood train finally came I got up, boarded it. The toenail stayed behind. Perhaps it was going to Wilshire/Western.
I wonder if it’s still there.
I badly want to go back and look for it on my way home this evening.
I want to pick it up.
I want to send it in the mail to my friends.
I can’t stop thinking about it.
I am a servant – a slave – of the Dreadful Talon of the Underground.
The Vermont-Wilshire Metro Station escalator shown above is a mere stone’s throw from the Vermont-Wilshire Metro Station escalator famously interviewed by Tony Pierce.
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