Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Rubik's Cube

96th street.

The woman sitting next to me on the 2 pulls a Rubik's cube out of her purse, begins to play with it. So intent is she on twisting and turning it that she doesn't notice the eyes watching her. The eyes of the two men standing by the door, the taller one explaining what a Rubik's cube is to his friend, who, incredibly, has never seen one. The eyes of the teenage couple sitting opposite, holding hands, who have fallen silent watching her. The eyes of the young mother pointing the cube out to her two year old. The eyes of the child filling with wonder as it sees the toy flash in the woman's hand. Even the eyes of the permanently scowling young man peering surreptitiously out from under his hood. All these strangers, joined for a moment in a half-assembled intimacy by these impromptu arrangements of colour, this sliding of planes back and forth.

What is it about the Rubik's cube that fascinates them? Is it a shared desire for order, for the restoration of pattern and sequence? Or is it simply nostalgia for a long-ago childhood, some memory they are trying to hastily put together, knowing it will not come out quite right? Or is it simply curiosity, the unexpectedness of this activity, so innocent and yet somehow so personal, that takes them by surprise - these people who have learnt to live in a mutual privacy, who would have looked away if the woman had been crying, or pleading for help, or kissing.

The woman pauses. She has managed to get one face of the cube to be all red. Her fingers trembling with hope, she turns the cube in her hand. But no, the puzzle is not done - on the other face blue and yellow are mixed hopelessly together. She will have to break up the all-red face. There is no help for it. Around her, the disappointment in her hands is mirrored in a half dozen faces.

72nd street.

I get off, and the young couple gets off with me. Behind us, the woman with the Rubik's cube is starting again, breaking and remaking what she has done, approaching the problem in a different way. She must be going somewhere, I know, she is only doing this to pass the time. But in my mind I imagine her sitting there forever, in that faded subway car, assembling and reassembling the crowd around her, trying for that perfect unity, that perfect balance, everything in its right place.


rs said...

never got it right.
now i know why - i have an aversion to order

maisnon said...

Ah, this was just perfect. Something to think about as I drift off to sleep. (That's hours from now, but still...)

Atish said...


Anonymous said...

It's amazing how sometimes the simplest of things can connect strangers for a brief moment in time, in total silence. Then the moment passes and the people walk away, strangers still, but briefly touched by a common thread.

Liked the post. Also wanted to say that the on-demand poetry-with-parameters you have been posting is impressive.


Just Mohit said...

"But in my mind I imagine her sitting there forever, in that faded subway car, assembling and reassembling the crowd around her, trying for that perfect unity, that perfect balance, everything in its right place."
Just like all of us...but this image will stay in my mind for a while now...a fitting metaphor. Thanks

Revealed said...

The metaphor breaks down in the very end, doesn't it? :)

But for the most part very pretty.

Big Wave said...

"..assembling and reassembling the crowd around her..."
as with so much else, it became a music video in my head:) beautiful. but here's a many of the people watch to see if she *can* do it? like watching a tightrope walk, a juggling act, an extraordinary leap...willing the person to the other side?

Gammafunction said...

great post.

Anonymous said...

I used to know a guy, who would "look" at a rubics cube and arrange one face without looking at it..



animaha said...

A Rubik's cube always evokes interest. I have never seen anyone nearby one and not looking at it. Maybe its the medley of colours, maybe its the simplicity in the puzzle's nature .. that everyone .. however young can understand the problem.

Anonymous said...

you paint so beautifully with words

- amethyst