In the Dim Light of a New Day
This month’s story is Robert Lopez’s dark vignette about subway riding, from his new novel-in-stories, A Better Class of People. The book follows an agitated narrator making his way around the city underground, with flashes of Taxi Driver, the bleak future we’re rushing towards, and the usual surreal frustrations of straphanging.
I find almost everything hard to believe is what the man sitting next to me says to the woman sitting next to him. It doesn’t matter what it is anymore, he doesn’t believe it. He says he can’t believe what’s happened to the United States of America, that it’s not what the founders intended. I know what he means because I have moths in my apartment and I can’t believe it, either. They are pantry moths so every time I open the pantry I have to kill at least two or three of them. It’s been like this for weeks now and yesterday there were worms crawling along the walls and ceilings. Larva is the technical word for it and I can’t believe this, either. This is why I am on the subway so I can go to the store for a special poison that will kill the moths and their larva all at once. But I know the man next to me wouldn’t care about the moths even if I told him about it. You can tell he doesn’t have moths or larva in his apartment by the way he’s dressed in a fancy suit and tie, but it turns out he and his wife have decided to renew hostilities anyway. He says he can’t take it anymore and that Janet doesn’t want to start a family. She says she can’t bring a child into this godforsaken world. I don’t know who Janet is but I can’t say I blame her. I couldn’t bring a child into this godforsaken world, either. It might be the reason Esperanza and I broke up. I think she desperately wanted my children and I couldn’t do it. Last I heard she married someone from work, someone who harassed her sexually but before they changed all the rules. The woman who isn’t Janet or Esperanza and is sitting next to the rich guy on the subway says, in the dim light of a new day I know what you mean and the man smiles at her like he understands what she’s talking about. Then she says, I’ll have your baby and then she says, it might be retarded, though, and then the both of them laugh for what seems like a full five minutes. I don’t know what she means by the dim light because the lights aren’t dim in the subway car but it was morning time so she was right about that part. It doesn’t matter about the lights or the day because they’re still laughing when my stop comes but I can’t even crack a smile because nothing is funny when you have pantry moths in your kitchen, regardless of what the founders intended. On my way through the closing doors I turn around and say to the both of them that you wouldn’t believe what I can’t take anymore and this is when I finally do laugh even though nothing about this is at all funny.
Robert Lopez is the author of several works of fiction. His first nonfiction book, Dispatches from Puerto Nowhere, is due from Two Dollar Radio in March, 2023. He teaches at Stony Brook University.