The Midnight CowboyEven in a subway car crowded with freaks, he stood out. His wide-brimmed hat tilted low hid his eyes, but not his scruffy, manly chin. The dust on his brown leather vest wasn't the grime of the New York City subway but the hard-earned grit of the Texas countryside. His large belt buckle gleamed like a marquee above the bulge in his tight blue jeans. On the floor, the pointed toes of his black boots tapped in time to some hymn from the trail circling in his mind.
He sat like a midnight cowboy on the packed subway car, wedged between a latex-covered, androgynous goth and a midget woman (who might have been a man) with a two-foot high, bright-blue beehive hairdo that would have flattened against the roof of the subway car if he or she were a normal-sized person. In any other city, one would guess that it was Halloween, but here in NYC, this was just another Friday night.
The midnight cowboy seemed comfortable among these intentional misfits -- too comfortable for someone seemingly so far from where he belonged. I was missing some part of his story, some part that the clothes and dust and demeanor didn't tell, and it irked me.
If only I could see his eyes, I thought, I might see what lay behind them. Lust? Fear? Anger? Pain? If only I could glance into his eyes, perhaps then I could figure out what made this cowboy stand out among the others, what made him more different. Unique.
The rumbling subway train slowed with a squeal and then stopped. The cowboy stood as the doors slid open. I eyed the brim of his hat expectantly, waiting for it to move aside and show me the truth in his eyes. But he evaded my scrutiny, as if somehow he knew I was watching, waiting, studying.
He stepped from the train car to the platform and the doors slid closed. The train lurched forward, and through the windows, I watched him move toward the stairs, where he would climb to the mad city above and disappear into the night.