600 Words about the Humans of the Opposite Escalator

By Angela Anastasi

Editor’s note: This story, despite being very real, is fictional.

It is 5:14 p.m. The air is heavy, and there is not enough noise in it to match the size of the crowd that fills this narrow space. The hum of the escalator drowns out the silence as I begin my ascent to freedom.

One minute, 43 seconds. Hummm.

The couple on the opposite escalator is making out like they’re in a blue-lit night club surrounded by smoky air and trendy techno music. The boy is standing backwards, wearing a black beanie and with a messenger bag wrapped around his body, which is managing to stay perfectly in place as the girl with the burgundy hair tilts her body weight onto him. She leans over just enough so that this whole musty place can feel their connection, even envy it a little, but not enough for their emotional tumble into bliss to become a literal one. They’ll reach the end and part ways only for a short time, just enough for him to sort out his mail and for her to feed her dog. Tonight, she’ll go to his flat and they’ll order Chinese food and make out some more, this time in front of a ‘90s movie with Ashton Kutcher in it, just like they did on that first night that they met in that dark bar in Camden Town and walked the one hour and sixteen minutes home.

I rise. One minute and two seconds. Hummm.

A woman, about 27, pin-straight blonde hair tied up in a smooth ponytail that just skims the back of her stiff blazer, clutches her cell phone as she scrolls through Twitter, or a Cosmo article maybe. Her eyes glance from left to right quickly as she races to finish the article before being dumped back into the thick commotion that awaits her. She is powerful, but struggles to appear soft and approachable, as signaled by her shimmering peach lipstick which is undoubtedly a popular shade from MAC that she purchased after having a “treat yourself” moment at the end of a long Thursday, one of the many side effects of success in this city. Her eyes droop with exhaustion, but her day is not nearly over. She will smear on darker lipstick and go to a cocktail hour with her colleagues, the whole time wondering why she exhausts herself each day over emails and conference calls for a paycheck that hardly pays the rent. Charlie From Finance will speak with his typical arrogance about the latest deals he made or expensive craft beer he purchased in attempts to impress her, but all the while she’ll count the seconds until she is back in bed watching The Bake-Off with cheap chardonnay.  

Forty-six seconds. Hummm.

There’s a man, dressed professionally but too young for this corporate facade, as indicated by his green Beats By Dre headphones and his slight body movements which prove that, while he makes a six-figure salary and has a classy flat with a beautiful wife waiting for him in a place that probably has a doorman, he’s listening to early 2000s Kanye West and wishing he could go back to the days of rugby practice and keg parties. His kids will jump on him and his wife will have a dinner of green bean casserole and baked chicken on the table and his life will go on, perfectly routine.

Three, two, one. Hummm

The light shows through the top of the escalator tunnel and I escape the grasp of The Underground in one swift leap. The humans of the opposite escalator disappear below me as I stand above ground. The escalators continue to hum along.

Angela is full time student, free time artist, and temporary world traveler. She values hard work, good company, and real Philly pretzels. See her overreact to daily life and quote Kanye on Twitter @Angelaa119

Read Hundreds of Words by Angela Anastasi here

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