“Daily Commute” by Mary Jean Murphy

 

blurred motion of train at railroad station
Tommy Jepsen

She leaves handprints on subway car windows because she likes to watch the wet heat from her skin stick—incomplete offspring of her palm—then fade. Proof that a part of her always lingers. Jane wonders if she’s ever touched the same spot twice, after years of drowsy rides to work, crowded paths home with packed cars, and yet—Jane is imaginary. When the train hits the tunnel, the daylight slaps out, and she’s left with her orange-lit reflection, swaying, hand hovered as if to tell the whole truth. Perhaps her handprints have traveled through time to embrace: a high five, an embrace, or fingertips kissed together in prayer. Jane dares not think about who gets paid to wash her away. That faceless man who follows with a soiled rag, waxing her out. It’s easier to believe in the small bits that remain, unseen, the outline of a touch like a hushed hello. In some languages, we use the same word for goodbye. In others, speech is heard through the hands.

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mary jean murphy author photo
Mary Jean Murphy lives and writes in New York City. Her poetry has appeared in the Washington Square Review, and she was the nonfiction winner of Epiphany: A Literary Journal’s Spring 2016 contest judged by Kathryn Harrison. She holds an MFA in Nonfiction Writing from Columbia University (’16).  By day, she manages a chain of martial arts schools in New York.