A man seated across from me on a Brooklyn-bound D train was looking at me.  I felt his stare and returned his gaze.  This was when his blank expression changed to a warm and slightly sloppy grin.  His face was a little crooked, like mine.  He was missing teeth, top and bottom, and his nose looked swollen and pulpy, like a boxer’s.  He looked as if he had just chased a parked truck.  His smile unnerved me, and I returned to reading the latest issue of New York magazine. A story about bed bug infestations in the Upper East Side had my interest.

I looked up and he was still looking at me.  Annoyed, I asked him directly, “Can I help you?”  I have a bad habit of talking to crazy people, and this guy gave off a crazy vibe.  I normally don’t confront people who stare, but I was lonesome for a friend who had just left the country so I might have been a little crabby, and I didn’t want this guy watching me.

“You look like Sam Shepard.”  This wasn’t the first time I had heard this from someone in the subway.  It must be the dim and ugly green of the fluorescent lighting that brings out the Shepard in me.

“Yeah, I get that a lot.”  True.  But I would like to state for the record that I resemble a young Sam Shepard.

The fellow started to seem a little less annoying and more clear-headed once he started speaking, and so I asked him the first thing that came to mind.  “Do you like his plays?”

“True West and a couple others.” He looked down then up again, and he blushed a little. “I write, too.”

“You write plays?”

“Yeah. Two-handers mostly.” Well, this guy was clearly an aficionado, because I had never heard that phrase used by anyone who didn’t love theater.

“That’s interesting.”  Sometimes, I say boring things.

“Yeah, I like turning two souls lose, letting them mix it up, and seeing what sort of salad they become.”

I laughed abruptly in a concussive burst. “That’s awesome,” I told him.

“Yeah.”  He opened the soiled baby-blue backpack at his feet and pulled out a school composition book.  He turned his head down to the rumpled pages and took a pen from his back pocket and started writing.  This ended our chat.

I should have introduced myself, asked his name at least.  I have a feeling he was disappointed I wasn’t Sam Shepard.  They would have had something to talk about.


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