Credit: Daniel Fishel

“Loose squares, loose squares!” rang through the aisle.

“Boy, if you don’t bring yourself back over here,” said a middle-aged woman with long twists flowing from her roots. The wide-eyed little boy tried to run farther down the el car when a teenager in a puffy jacket slightly stuck his Js out in front of the toddler and said “Hey little man” with a smile.

He ran back to his mom and snuggled beside her. Meanwhile, Felicia sat across from the two, relieved the little one didn’t miss a beat and trip. She sat feet crossed, wishing not another soul would sit by her. She placed her tote bag to her right. Five PM rush was hell enough without someone elbowing her side to numbness.

Nonetheless, people were clearing out. The train was going farther south, and she began to have room to breathe again. It looked more like 10 PM than five.

“CDs, loosies, smell-goods!” yelled another man draped in lime green. He paraded his merchandise left to right for his potential patrons to see. A long rush of wind from his push through the emergency door pressed most people past interest in even seeing what he was selling. Most just looked back at their phones, but a few had to get their fix.

“Ay man! Over here!” one man yelled, then an abrupt stop.

The overhead blared, “Attention passengers, attention passengers, we only have one rail available due to crews working on the tracks. We should be pulling off in a few minutes. We appreciate your patience. Thank you for riding the CTA.” The operator sounded like she was reading from a sheet of paper verbatim.

Obscenities filled the railcar. The teenager sat to Felicia’s left; she struggled to hold in a grumble. She was so annoyed she barely felt the tap on her shoulder.

“Hey, uh, can I have some of that popcorn? I’m so hungry,” he pleaded.

She slipped her bag of O-Ke-Doke popcorn out of her tote and busted it open. The teen’s eyes went wide as she poured the popcorn in his cupped hands. “Why weren’t there more places to get real meals off this damn train?” Felicia thought. She concluded it wouldn’t matter anyway.

The train finally made it to the Dan Ryan. The teenager mumbled “Ay miss thank you again” as he downed the snack and walked to the exit doors.

“No problem. Glad you said something,” she responded.

The train pushed forward and a group of passengers gathered around the exit doors in competition, like they just might miss the stop if they weren’t at the doors before the train took its final halt.

Felicia let the group clear before she rose from her seat. Scrambling through folks wasn’t worth the stress. She still ran into the masses anyway, meeting the brittle breeze. She could barely walk through the platform.

New station, same 95th Street.  v