I wake up to the sound of my phone vibrating against the seat. For a while, I can’t make out what it is and where I am, being still partially enveloped in the dark dream I can’t quite remember anymore. And then I recognize the cabin and its tired passengers and the phone glowing in the black of my bag, and decide I am back in reality.
* * *
The call is from Jae, whose karaoke party I am supposed to join in a while. I take a glance at my watch: six minutes to eleven.
“Where are you?”
I look out at the parallel highway where the cars are trailing behind. Among the buildings beyond that, one can see clearly a towering building that brandishes the poster of a sportswoman doing squats with a barbell.
“I’m on the train, somewhere near BV. Maybe another ten minutes.”
“Dude, you don’t want to be late. Chicks don’t appreciate latecomers, the last I heard.”
If I haven’t known Jae since high school, I might have appreciated his words of advice. But knowing him the way I do, I know that is a load of bull.
“And where’re you?”
“Me? On the way man.”
“Where else? On the subway, of course.”
I detect a moment of hesitation, and know immediately that it’s a lie.
“You’re still at home, aren’t you?” I state flatly.
“No – that’s insulting bro. Even I won’t go that far. I’m at the bus stop, waiting for the damn 571 that just bloody won’t come.”
Whereas I’m the kind of guy who will almost always say I might be late just in case I am, Jae is the kind of person who insists on lying about being late even when no one doubts he’s gonna be.
“Whatever. We’re not waiting for you. Just text us when you reach.”
“Alright man, cheers. Tell the girls I’ll only be slightly late. Tell them there’s like an accident or something.”
“Whatever. Later.” And I hang up.
As I gaze at the cars outside, it suddenly occurs to me just how strange it is that a petite, nimble construct like a car can move slower than a massive length of countless boxes on wheels. Surely the one with heavier burden will have a harder time forward, no?
Just then, the train snaps into tunnel mode and black, cutting my view off. For some incomprehensible reason, this transit into darkness grips my heart, like a vague reminder of something terrible that now seem ages away.