174 JULY/AUGUST 2017 | BETHESDAMAGAZINE.COM
GRAY WORLDS THE QUARRY
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rebellious rhinestone encrusted hat,
black earrings and a bad case of acne.
A few stops into our ride, a young
man and woman shuffled onto the train,
drained passengers on a joyless joyride. They had heavy eyes devoid of any
expectation and wore ill-fitting sweat-shirts of teams they had probably never
cheered for. Their demeanors were tired
and ashen, yet somehow focused. They
locked eyes with each other, and before
they even opened their mouths, I knew
they had something to say.
“Ladies and gentlemen.” His pale gray
eyes swept the car. “My fiancée is preg-
nant and we are starving. Please, anything
helps. Any change, food, water. Please.”
The man with the devilish braids got
up and walked over to them. They spoke
in low voices for a minute. We locked
eyes as he pulled out my quarter and held
it up, not unlike the Eucharist.
“This man,” he said, pointing at me,
“gave me this, and now I’m giving it to you.
Pass on what is good, what is beautiful.”
I still had my three dollars in my pocket
and tried to press myself into the puke-
colored seat. Damn it, I knew I couldn’t
give these people any money without
exposing myself as a fraud. If only I had
been more generous with that man, he
could have given this couple more.
The couple walked down the aisle
toward me. The acne-faced kid sitting
across from me slipped them 30 bucks
in the most nonplus way possible. I was
shocked. All I could do was nod my head
as the couple came by. I tried to look back
down at The New Yorker, but its words,
its intellectual arguments supported by
such glamorous tones and thoughtful
verbiage, now seemed paper thin. What
had just happened seemed so purposefully directed at me. I sat thinking for a
few minutes, my article on Julian Assange
folded across my lap. I dreamed of God.
“You know she’s not pregnant.” The
kid with acne had a coarse voice, like
“She’s not pregnant. They come
through here every day.”
He had silvery tears on his cheeks. He
had been crying.
“They don’t stop asking you until you
pay them.” He sounded fragile.
“Oh… I’m sorry to hear that.”
“Are you new to D.C.? I ride this train
“No… I, I usually have practice.” He
looked lonely as he gazed around the
Metro car. My voice was quieter, more
controlled than I would have liked. I
wanted to shake him. To scream at him,
“Why the fuck are you crying? Is it their
pain you cannot take? Is it their lies and
manipulation? Are you crying because
you just gave in to their weekly toll?
You paid them off, simple as that, not to
bother you anymore? Do you weep for
me because I’m cynical, because I can-
not ever, truly understand?”
I looked around at the empty car.
Distorted reflections melted by on the
blacked out windows. We both got off at
Bethesda, but didn’t say anything more
or walk next to each other. I put my ear-
buds back in as I rejoined the placid world
from which I had come. Chance the Rap-
per seemed too upbeat, I needed some-
thing contemplative. I settled on Nirvana.
To the cacophony of power chords
and Kurt Cobain, I walked by Booey-monger, Starbucks and Bethesda-Chevy
Chase High School as I headed for
home down East West Highway. Heart
flushed, I re-spoke the words I had heard
that day. My pace quickened. Desperate
faces filled my mind. My inner turmoil
must have shown on my physical appearance as a woman I passed shot me a concerned look. Unable to satisfy myself
with worldly thoughts, I turned to the
profound. I tried to think of Jesus on that
Metro. Was he in the radical generosity of the braided-hair man? Or the desperate longing of the young couple? Or
in the robust humanity of the acne kid?
his; her forehead crinkled. Even the way
she bit her lip mirrored him exactly. For a
moment, I almost felt like he was here, like
he lived in her. Then Cora turned away.
“It means nothing,” I insisted, my voice
louder than it needed to be. “He didn’t
know what he was doing when he bought
it. He may have never even been here.” As
I gazed at the quarry, I realized that I was
trying to reassure myself as well as convince her. “I’m sorry,” I said, turning away.
I sat down on the edge of the quarry. My
feet hung into the abyss.
As we sat in silence, I at the top and
she at the bottom, the temperature began
to drop and the light changed. Shadows
advanced and withdrew. They crept up
the walls and slithered along the floor.
Pools of darkness joined the pools of
water. The quarry breathed. The lowering sun projected Cora’s shadow across
the rock, larger than life, like she wasn’t
alone down there.
Then the sun set and the shadows vanished. In the sudden dark, the quarry
looked flat and still. The rocks were no
longer anything more than just that. The
cathedral hadn’t just vanished; it had
“It’s just rocks, isn’t it?” Cora asked,
her voice flat. Her question echoed in
the dark, the disappointment in her voice
magnified in each resounding echo.
“It’s fine.” She stood up. “I’m ready to
go. You can call the developer.” I nod-
ded. Cora climbed back up to the top
and, without a word, we retraced the
path back to the car. As we drove away,
I grew unsettled. The last image of the
quarry, flat and dark, faded in my mind
as the distance from it increased, and the
memory of the dancing shadows grew
stronger. The quarry means nothing, I
repeated to myself. Rocks are just rocks.
But as we drove away, I felt as though
I had left something behind. n