Every weekday, a sea of humanity, over 2 million strong, surges through the turnstiles at Shinjuku Eki, the busiest metro station in the world. And every weekday morning, not only do I join this morass; I must also swim against the current, entering the station as most are leaving. Thankfully, this is the worst of it. It takes me nearly two hours to reach the school where I teach, but since it’s a cross-commute, I always get a seat, at least in the morning.
Then one morning endured that crush for the last time, though at the time, I didn’t know it.
It was unseasonable warm that spring day, so the vent windows along the roof were open. My school was rather rural and despite the onslaught of suburbia, a few fields still line the tracks. As the train neared my stop, a wave of nostalgia flooded over me, triggered by the scent of freshly plowed earth. When the train pulled to a stop, I found that I could not move, that I was inexplicably glued to my seat.
When the train arrived at the terminus, I had no choice but to exit, so I walked to the connecting station, figure out which train would take me farther into the country, and boarded.
I’ll decide what to do next when I reach the end of the line.