have a seat, stranger

CHICAGO — The empty seat on a crowded train is very suspicious. It’s exciting at first — yes! a seat, just for me! — before you realize something must be wrong with it, otherwise someone would be sitting there already.

Avoid the oddly vacant subway seat. It must be cursed.

In this story I’m about to tell, there was a clump of something — hair? lint? steel wool? — on the seat, so I sadly accepted my fate and stood. A stop later, a seat opened across from The Vacant One, so I took it, but the following scene unfolded:

New passengers board, bee-line for the seat, stutter step, choose standing room. Stop after stop, several passengers did the same thing: Spot the seat, see the fuzz, sit or stand elsewhere.

Then it happened.

A man boarded, eyed the seat, and before a word was spoken, he placed his rear end on that black-and-gray fuzz. I, like a few passengers around me, opened my mouth in a panic: Don’t do it! There’s fuzz! Can’t you see no one wants that seat, sir?

But we said nothing. He plopped down, none the wiser.

A few of us exchanged looks. Should we tell him? What if it ruins his pants? At the same time, he looked so content, so pleased to have a seat on the crowded train. Why embarrass him? Why embarrass myself?

I disembarked a few stops later. Whatever happened to that man, his pants or the fuzz — I’ll never know.

[think kit, january prompt: Share a story about a stranger. Have you had an interesting interaction or observation involving a complete stranger? Or a time when a stranger helped you out?]

—note: think kit is a monthlong blogging project in december when writers post daily, responding to community-curated prompts about all sorts of things. following the challenge, participants receive monthly prompts from think kit, to keep the creativity flowing between decembers. i’m a little behind.—

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