As I ride home on the Brown Line, my notebook clutched to my chest, if my mind's eye made it sound, it would be like a Shop-Vac.

It's a game my mother taught me. We always found creative ways to pass the time.

"Look at someone and make a story. Say what they were doing earlier in the day, or where they're going now."

But right now all I notice is that a lot of people who wear running shorts probably shouldn't, and that there are five people on a Chicago train reading the New York Times.

It's one of the hottest days of the young summer and everyone appears deflated. They've emerged from their airconditioned offices where ties and button down shirts seemed acceptable and packed onto a rumbling, un-airconditioned subway car where the sun streams through the scratched and fingerprinted windows baking us like cornish hens.

A woman tries to sleep. She's got two hours before her next job as a waitress in Rogers Park. She has three kids at home who all want Playstation 2 and she's either got to get it for them or explain that she's a failure at motherhood and send them down a road of murder and ruin. Well, that's just how she feels right now, as a bead of sweat rolls down from her neck to the small of her back.

The only possible label for the girl sitting next to me is "meek cheese eater". It sums up every part of her. She sits with her white, sharp knees pressed tightly together, wearing a pair of cut-offs that are loose and flowing enough on her tiny, bird legs to be considered culotts. In her delicate hands is a small chunk of some pale orange cheese, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap. She glances about nervously, unwraps said cheese in a determined, measured and silent fashion, takes the smallest bite possible, covers her mouth while she chews it, then re-wraps the cheese and hides it in her hands. Each bite takes a minimum of three minutes, if we include the wrapping procedures. I'm not a violent person. But it is taking everything in me not to cram the whole chunk down her fragile, lengthy gullet. I decide to look away before I take definitive action.

Someone has written "Richie Daley is an asshole" on a poster, and below that is a sticker with someone's 'tag'. I try to write my old 'tag' on the cover of my notebook, but it's clear that my days of being a graffiti skate Betty are over. Good thing, since I'm turning thirty in September.

The train ratchets to a stop at my street and I notice the same schizophrenic getting off that gets off every day...pounding on the train doors before the car even stops, then pushing and shoving to be the first down the stairs. He reminds me of my mother, but not in the way you might think.

The conductor looks out the window, gives me a friendly wave and the train trundles away...leaving me in the roasting June heat.