The chill in my bones was something I couldn’t shake off and yet my shoulders continued to tremble as if they were involuntarily determined to throw off the cold. It took a great effort to lift my heavy lids, but letting my eyes wander around the subway was one of the few pleasures on my commute home from work. My vision surprised me. Everything looked gray. Everything was in shades of gray. No, no, everything was in black and white.
There was an old man who sat just under my nose. I looked down and saw the blaring light gray of his skin and observed the harsh black lines that filled the cracks over his eyebrows and under his eyes. A mother’s eyes were black hallows that punctured her face. I watched the dark whites of the shadows fall from her arm as her daughter yanked at her mother’s limbs.
The train slowed, and I looked out at the platform. Broadway. Black and white. People walked in as dark shadows. The light inside the train was white and blinding despite its lack of strength. I didn’t know where the color had gone. The poor souls of New York were winding down. I had run out of magic just like I had run out of credit on my metro card. I had gone on one too many subway rides and spent my pixie dust recklessly on all that my eyes had devoured.
I then looked at the window to watch the passing concrete, but instead I was confronted with my reflection. I never had expected that I would be made up of flecks of black and white as well. My hair fell limply, only sticking out where my coat had not allowed it to fall naturally. My strands bunched up here and stuck up there. My neck seemed large. Had I gained weight? Or were the glands under my neck just that swollen? I swallowed and felt the pain roll up and down my throat. My eyes. The insides, the pupils, were as dark as a dangerous alley. The white parts were pale and shiny with wetness and resembled clean, untouched porcelain. Tiny black veins flowed over the glossy film of my eye ball with similar characteristics to that of small creeks that had just started to freeze over during the winter. And then the dark shadows, the gray that quickly turned to black, circumferenced my eyes like rims that confirmed the fact that my mind and body did not know when it was time to sleep.
The circles around my eyes, the dreaded things that snarky beauty advertisements always did so well to point out to women who did not have the luxury of any kind of sleep—not beauty, not peaceful—scared the hell out of me. I tightened my grip around the silver bar of stability and leaned forward toward the window. But then I saw my hand around the bar. My hand was a dark used-up gray, and my knuckles were whiter than snowflakes, and my fingers… They were more rigid than the harshest of New York ice sickles. My fingers! My hands! I lifted my hand up to my face in horror. The train took a turn and the ground shook. My hand bit into the bar like a snake, and I slowly turned back to my black and white reflection.
The automated voice sounded through stuffy speakers: “This is a Brooklyn-Bound Train. No transfers Available.” I continued to stare into my reflection. My head throbbed with pain. My hair did little to stop the beads of sweat from gathering at my brow. My breathing slowed. Then I panicked because it was so slow, and my breathing quickened. What would happen if I lost consciousness now? What would happen if the toes that I could no longer feel were actually not even there? What would happen with—and the window went black. Everything went black. Where did the white go? Where did the light go? And I remember hoping that we were just going through a tunnel. It’s only a tunnel, I told myself as I recognized the strange sensation of falling. It’s only a tunnel.