Reading Papa on Trains

My new thing: Inadvertently picking up boys by reading Hemingway in a public place.

SCENE: Uptown 1 train during rush hour

CHARACTERS: A whole train full of them, leaving only scattered seats available for our heroine, ESTER, who carries a purse, a tote bag, and a paperback copy of The Sun Also Rises. She navigates her way towards an empty spot next to a young white male HIPSTER, with unwashed hair and metal stuff in his face, who is sprawled casually across several seats. His feet rest against the pole.

HIPSTER: That’s a good book.

ESTER: [smiles politely, like she always does when strange men speak to her uninvited.]

HIPSTER: [louder] That’s a good book!

ESTER: Uh huh! [unspoken: Actually, I’m finding it pretty boring, but I’d like to keep reading, so if you –]

HIPSTER: I love Hemingway. He’s so great.

ESTER: Yeah! Well, except, his voice does seem pretty similar book to book. I just read A Moveable Feast and —

HIPSTER: A Moveable what?

ESTER: Uh, A Moveable Feast.

HIPSTER: I don’t know it.

ESTER: It’s his memoir of life in Paris. You should read it — it has F. Scott Fitzgerald in it.*

HIPSTER: [blank stare]

ESTER: Anyway, it strikes me as funny that the narrator there is essentially exactly the same as the narrator in this one — and this one’s supposed to be fiction.

HIPSTER: But that’s the thing! It’s all HIM. It’s so real.

The man himself

ESTER: Sure! And he seems so happy, drinking, living in Europe, meeting women …

[HIPSTER smiles suggestively. He is good-looking, although not as good-looking as he thinks he is, and his feet are still on the pole. He is taking up enough space for at least three people.]

HIPSTER: Yeah. He had the life!

ESTER: Yeah! The details are so strange, though. He’s totally into cataloging exactly what he ate, what he drank, and then the streets he took to get home to his apartment in Paris, but then his wife has a baby and you don’t hear anything about that til the kid is 6 weeks old. I guess it’s no surprise he got divorced. … And then he killed himself.

HIPSTER: Yeah! What’s up with that? Isn’t that weird?

ESTER: Seriously. To go all around the world, sleep with everyone, be a writer, eat and drink and have a great time, and then blow your head off in Idaho. … Here’s my stop! Have a nice day.


* The best part of that entire book is a conversation between F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway in a cafe where Fitzgerald confesses that Zelda told him his penis is too small to give a woman pleasure and he is now terminally insecure about it. Hemingway takes him into the bathroom to see, tells him it’s fine, and then takes him to the Louvre to look at naked statues. Even that doesn’t alleviate poor Fitzgerald’s concern. But you have to admit, Papa was a good friend.

3 thoughts on “Reading Papa on Trains”

  1. My my my, that guy DOES sound hip! This reads like a scene from our generation’s When Harry Met Sally…. I mean, of course, for those who left (500) Days of Summer less than fully satisfied.

    Just thank God you weren’t reading Foucault.

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