Bethany has reached that point in many women’s lives when reading becomes a luxury indulged in only on the subway. The stuffy cars, packed with people she doesn’t know and whose eye contact she wishes at all costs to avoid, are ideal for elevating the act of reading in public to the status of sacred rite. Like the goddess of the temple of Bethany, she is respected, even venerated, and held slightly in awe by her fellow commuters. This is her firm belief.
Yet Bethany’s firm belief has been wavering lately, especially when riding a crowded train that tends to accommodate wandering hands. At first she thought the hands might belong to perverts interested in her nether regions, but she soon discovered her error. A jacket draped casually over a forearm might flash in the corner of her eye about two seconds before she thinks to check her purse. Her investigative fingers invariably come upon a half-opened zipper at the very same instant the casually draped jacket disappears from view. So often has this happened that Bethany is being forced to surrender her goddess-like aura of self-absorption.
And Bethany is not happy about this circumstance. Already the entire trajectory of the first stop is spent in the effort of finding an acceptable spot within comfortable reach of a pole to hang on to but with enough breathing room to hold a book. Once that is accomplished, Bethany must find her place and read the sentence three times before it can take precedence over the gym suit Carla forgot to take to school, the chicken Bethany forgot to thaw for dinner and the clothes that have been hanging on the line since Friday.
As if these inner distractions weren’t hard enough to juggle, now she has to add the physical demands of keeping one hand at the ready to grab the pole or her purse, keeping one eye on her purse without losing track of her stop, and oh yes, reading that sentence again.