Friday, November 22, 2019
By Randy Romero (Randy Benivegna)
Trevor Booth had an awful but unbreakable habit of eavesdropping on other people’s conversations. Sometimes it was unavoidable. Dependent on public transportation, Trevor couldn’t help but overhear people’s chitchat. But he also couldn’t deny that listening to these conversations was a guilty pleasure for him.
Maybe it was a way to make up for his own lack of companionship. Trevor was a paradox. He was lonely and he craved conversation, but he typically loathed people. He did have a few friends, but they were few and far between.
That morning on the train, he overheard a heated domestic dispute taking place over a cell phone. The conversation was one-sided since Trevor couldn’t hear on the other end, but it sounded like the woman’s boyfriend was breaking up with her. And judging by her profane remarks, she wasn’t taking the news too well.
He also overheard a man talking to his friend about how his wife left him for her younger, more virile yoga instructor. He overheard two teenagers, who were probably on winter break, gossiping about their classmates and talking about their boyfriends.
In the seat across from him, two strangers argued back and forth. One was a businessman–suit, tie, briefcase in his lap, newspaper rolled up in one hand. The other man was a bit younger, more dressed down. They were heatedly discussing politics, which turned into a debate about climate change, which somehow segued into a debate about vaccinations.
He listened intently to two women gabbing about their husbands and kids. The inane chatter was enough to bore most people to death. But he couldn’t stop himself from listening.
“I told my kids I’m older than Google and they didn’t believe me,” one of the women said. “They think it’s been around forever.”
“Kids have it easy these days,” the other woman said. “We didn’t have Google when we were growing up. We didn’t even have computers.”
“My oldest daughter wants a cell phone for Christmas. I’m putting my foot down. She’s only eleven. She’s too young for a cell phone.”
The rumble of the train ceased and the doors open. A man got on and sat next to Trevor. The man carried a wretched odor. The smell of death. He looked sickly, his eyes were bloodshot. He leaned in, close enough for Trevor to feel his cold, disgusting breath on his cheek.
“We all have it here,” he whispered. “We’re all infected.”
Trevor didn’t respond, just stared straight ahead. He’d dealt with his share of weirdos and creeps on the train, and he knew the best course of action was to ignore them. But that didn’t stop the man’s eerie words from echoing through his mind.
Trevor’s stop was next. He just sat quietly and waited it out.
The train’s brakes screeched as it came to the next stop. The man stood up and Trevor got a better look at his eyes. There was a dark red, almost black color clouding the whites of his eyes.
Trevor got off after him, and looked around. The eyes… Everyone in the train station had the same discoloration and seemed to be walking around in same kind of trance. He ran into the bathroom to get away from everyone and caught a glimpse of his reflection in a mirror, saw that his eyes were turning red too.
“We all have it here,” he repeated the man’s ominous words. “We’re all infected.”