Warmth.

You’re so fast the automated subway ticket doors don’t even register you, staying open after you’ve passed your ticket and are on the other side. You beckon to me from over there, hair getting in your eyes, hands in your pockets. My first instinct is to begrudge you the free ride, as I may begrudge you everything: the easy smile, the perfect creases in your jeans, the smell of salt and clean laundry you leave behind. It doesn’t seem fair.

As usual, there is no employee sitting at the booth, no one I can inform of this minor blip in the system, the product of something you’d laugh and call magic. It feels wrong to cross without paying, and I wonder when I suddenly developed such a patriotic conscience. More than anything, I am struck by the idea that you’ve forced me to be an accomplice to your lawlessness, I am annoyed, irrationally, poignantly, by the quicksilver of your body.

I almost begin a stupid monologue on crime and the statistics of social deviousness and whatnot, but I see your grin on the other end, your blush half-hidden by a hand. This strange sea of warmth starts pooling in my shoes, and I realize that as usual I am making a mess of things, that I am the one getting the magic, the free ride, and that to you this is not a felony, not immoral, not at all: this is your gift to me.