Graveyard Shift

I turned to the stranger to my left. What was he doing on the 2:00 a.m. train headed downtown. Was he headed in for drugs? Some huge party? I was certain he was a shady character.

I can't tell you how many I've run into since taking the graveyard conducting shift. Every night I wait for someone to pull a knife or a gun and milk me for all I'm worth. The risk is worth it to actually see the kids grow up.

This guy wasn't any different than the rest, I was certain of this much. The cotton of his chalkboard black stocking cap was frayed. His eyes were a mystery, hidden from veiw by the low-riding cap. His navy jeans were about four sizes too big, and had a very loose grip on his body. Any slight breeze could break their perilous grip and send them falling to the floor. His skin was the color of coffee with about eight creams in it. The part of his face which wasn't cast into shadow by the hood he wore ridiculously over his stocking cap was folded in a scowl. Although he wasn't particularly physically imposing, everything about him from his cartilage piercing to his unsightly posture said trouble. If he was headed downtown, he'd be in my car for twenty minutes.

I took a deep breath and advanced towards him. I had to collect his ticket.

Excuse me, sir, could I see your ticket? I made my voice as monotone as I could, so that no slight inflection would offend him and make him cut me. He dug into his hoodie pocket as I wondered what instruments of sin where concealed in there. Guns? Knives? Weed? My heart stopped when he pulled his hand out swiftly. It restarted once I saw it was just a ticket.

Ha-ha, got you, man, did you think I was packin' heat or something? He looked up, and I caught a slight glimpse of his eyes. Their mud brown was brightened by a twinkle.

No, I mean... err... I... umm, sorry. I get a lot of people like that on my car around this time, and assuming makes it safer. I can't afford to get hurt, my kids need the money. I could barely look at him. He must have been very offended by my assumption that he was a gunslinging gangster. He probably thought I had stereotyped him.

I know what you mean. I have kids ,too. You want to see them? He had a thick Hispanic accent, but I could understand him easily. I nodded to indicate I was interested, assumeing he meant he had pictures in his wallet. Come visit me some time and I'll introduce you to them. He grinned a coffee stained, yellow smile.

If you don't mind my asking, what exactly are you doing on the train going downtown at two in the morning? I leaned back against the seat across from my curious companion.

I was working at my night job. I'm in a production in the suburbs. This guy is an actor! My mind shouted. I could not believe that I had mistaken a stage actor for a gangster. I felt my tension release as I exhaled.

So what kind of production is it?

The first ever stage porno. His face didn't belie the bombshell he had just dropped. This guy was a father who got paid to screw people in front of a live audience!

Don't you have any reservations about taking a job like that as a father?

I have more about taking that job and being a husband. But it actually makes way to good of money for our family to pass up. After this we can move out of the city and start the kids college funds. He seemed very comfortable with this conversation, like he'd had it many times before.

The train reached its stop, and my new friend gave a casual wave and left. In one night I had seen him as a murderer, a theater nerd, and then seen him reveal himself as a pornographic actor. I felt like I opened a copy of Automotives Today only to find its interior had been replaced with Lolita. I never saw him again, never even caught his name, but I know that no matter what I will always remember that people are not what they seem at first.

Inside Joko Jun

Joko Jun features Filipinos from around the world... musicians, writers, photographers, and other creative people.