Undressing | Danielle Villano

There are so many men on the morning train that I would like to wrap my legs around.  The sight of a crisp white dress shirt and a graying widow’s peak has me holding my coffee cup a little tighter, so the pads of my fingers burn from the heat. These are the type of men who, if they were my father’s friends, I would shy away from. The scent of their Drakkar Noir would make me want to leave the room. But on the train I pray that one of them will look my way, take their earbuds out of their ears or stop chewing on a bagel for a moment to look at me.

His eyes will be cool and blank. They will be eyes that only ever really see The New York Times and the inside of a whiskey glass and no sleep. But they will see me, too, and that will be enough to keep me satisfied for days.

After a day of work I sit desperately in my cushioned public transportation seat and hope that someone will look my way, venture to ask me what I’m reading or crack a joke about the weather. The armpits of my blue blazer are damp, and my mouth tastes stale from too many hours in an airless office. The only person who says much of anything to me is the man who sits too close.  He is balding and his chin is shiny with drool.

“You’re very beautiful,” he says. He is wearing a yellow parka and holds a backpack over his crotch. I look away from him. The business man across the aisle meets my eyes for a moment before going back to his paper. His eyes are cool and blank, but I don’t think he really sees me.

A train conductor says “miss, would you like to move seats,” and I shake my head. I lean my forehead against the glass and watch the New York rain instead.  It is unchanging, and classic, and it looks good on everyone.

I am a girl I shouldn’t know, and I do not know how to wear my skin. I am a girl who lusts after the strangers on the train, knowing full well from the bands of gold on their ring fingers that they have someone to go home to after five o’clock. And I have someone to go home to, as well: someone who dresses in those same muted grays and blacks, who spends hours researching the proper way a pair of woolen pants should sit on the ankle. He wears product in his hair like them, and orders the same paper-bagged tallboys on the commute home, but at the end of the day he still watches cartoons and asks me to pay for his takeout.

That’s not a run in your stocking, it’s a hand on your leg.[1]  I am a girl who sighs at the sight of the man on the train who thumbs through a photographic tome on architecture, an expensive museum gift shop buy, who imagines being pressed against the wooden pew in a gothic cathedral and disturbing the bowls of holy water bolted to the walls. I imagine the coffee-stains on his dress shirt mingling with the stained-glass light, a kaleidoscope of red and green and yellow. Wardrobe of the unclean. I am a girl who goes to church despite all of this, and only sometimes drops a dollar in the collection basket, but only on the days when I don’t spend it on gum or bobby pins, just for the sake of spending.

Cary Grant’s father used to say “Let them see you and not the suit. That should be secondary,” but as my reveries progress the faces dissolve and I am left clutching at buttons and tri-blend.

[1] “Lines for the Fortune Cookies” – Frank O’Hara


Danielle Villano is a New Jersey native and a graduate of SUNY Purchase. Her writing has found its way to Storychord, Scissors & Spackle, and Milk Sugar. She is published in two anthologies: HerStory: Fiction Honoring Women’s History Month and For the Love of Gods (both by Pagan Writers Press).

About TOSKA

Nonfiction for the restless soul. Published online quarterly.

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