Excerpts from the Book That Man Is Reading on the Subway
Welcome, Bearded Man with a Slouchy Beanie Riding the Subway. You are reading me, a book. I am the reason that everyone in this train car is looking at you. They are curious—a young man reading a book, in this day and age? He must have a good heart, they think. Your literary fluency is attractive, they decide. They imagine that you will sweep them off their feet with poems about soft lips, though, in reality, you haven’t brushed your teeth for longer than forty seconds since high school. If only they knew that you were reading this book, a placeholder book, to convince other people that you are reading.
Chapter 1: A Celebration Is in Order
You’ve made it to the first chapter, which means that you’ve turned one page. Time to celebrate this lofty achievement.
Chapter 4: A Good Chuckle on Behalf of the Fools
Ha! Despite this current attempt to gain the respect of commuting strangers, in your regular life, you are barely able to string a sentence together without betraying your stupidity. Most of what you say are the regurgitated opinions of your co-worker (and longtime Frisbee enthusiast) Benj. But no one on this train needs to know that. Here, you are the man who knows how to enjoy literature and probably loves his mother a lot, but not too much.
Chapter 7: You Are Getting Away with This
Blah blah blah blah. See? You’re technically reading! Who needs real books, anyway, now that you’ve got this meta book that’s convincing everyone that you’re on a quest to find the perfect tree trunk to lean up against? Sure, the truth is that you haven’t done laundry in two months because “the bank is far and no one else has quarters.” But forget that! You are getting away with this whole book thing. Maybe you should be a professor. A books professor.
Chapter 8: A History of Your Ignorance
It’s time to admit that the only book you’ve ever finished is “The Catcher in the Rye.” How incredible that the one protagonist you’re able to relate to is Holden Caulfield, a sad rich boy.
Chapter 12: An Actionable Step
Turn the page.
Chapter 13: A Commemoration of Your Action
Good work when you turned that page just now. You are surely convincing everyone. Smile benevolently. Now back to work.
Chapter 18: The Pivotal Moment
You can feel the eyes of a woman with wispy bangs, who is most likely an influencer, on you. Now, this is very important: act as if you are reading. Make sure that your eyes dart from left to right, fast enough to convince her that you are a seasoned reader but not so fast that your reading looks fake. This book is proving to be a true Cyrano de Bergerac, a character with whom you are, of course, unfamiliar.
Chapter 23: The Illusion of a Thought
Look away. Sigh once. Now look at these words again. The girl who loves non-milk milk will like that it appeared as if you had an intelligent thought. She may try to catch your eye. Give her a glance, but don’t abandon your book. You must convince her that you are open, sensitive, and kind, but also obsessed with literature.
Chapter 25: A Giggle from the Woman Who Doesn’t Know Any Better
The woman has let out a little giggle. You should look up. You two deserve each other. She is a digital marketing coördinator. You are unemployed but working on your music, even though all of your songs sound eerily similar to “American Pie” by Don McLean. See? You and this woman are “two households, both alike in dignity.” That’s from “Romeo and Juliet,” a Shakespeare play that you will never read because “they die, and that’s a bummer, for sure.”
Congratulations! You nearly finished this book. It was intended for you, a boy who is good at hacky sack and doesn’t quite understand what’s wrong with the phrase “no homo.” This epilogue is merely a formality, as you abandoned this book on the train when you went to grab a drink with the girl who often poses in fields to get likes. Enjoy your drink. Don’t offer to pay for hers.