Laryssa Wirstiuk

If You Had Taken It off, I Would Have Hit on You

Riding the PATH to Manhattan midday
is a funeral with tactless guests pawing
at cellular devices. When I disconnect
my headphones, I’m always surprised
by quiet. But we’re already underground.

At Journal Square I have a reputation
for staring but so does everyone else.
Sometimes I’ll wear sunglasses despite
the darkened tunnel, fluorescent light,
to make riders feel less uncomfortable.

One Friday at around eleven, I notice
a young man stationary but taking
footsteps, arms crossed, against the door.
The footsteps become Irish stepdance,
and I think, “He must be Lord of the PATH.”

When he speaks, his voice wakes the dead
into laughter, which is why I start laughing
at his attempt to charm another passenger:
neither impartial nor interested, she’s twisting
the ring around her finger like a bottle cap.

“If you had taken it off, I would have
hit on you.” He approaches the woman,
though I can list at least five others,
in my opinion, more attractive than her.
At first, no one in the car understands “it.”

He points to her ring, and we’re all looking
for a reaction to Michael Flatley’s advances:
she puts on sunglasses so she can see
beyond disappointment, pallor. Don’t stand
so tall, too close to fluorescents, silly man.

The train screeches onward to Manhattan.


Laryssa Wirstiuk is a writer and writing instructor based in Jersey City, NJ. She teaches writing and digital media at Rutgers University. Her book The Prescribed Burn won Honorable Mention in the 21st Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards (Mainstream Fiction category). Her writing has been published in IthacaLit and is forthcoming in Instigatorzine, Hamilton Stone Review, and A3. You can view all her work here:

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