The train squealed to a stop at the midtown subway station. Maxine and Johnathon used the distraction of noise and the bustle of passengers exchanging train interior for platform and platform for train interior, to go over the railing blocking the narrow walkway at the end of the station. The walkway led into the subway tunnel, the direction the train had just arrived from. They skittered over the rusting steel railing leaving the brightly lit platform behind them, as they descended into the catacomb like darkness of the tunnel.
They moved quickly but carefully, avoiding the storied dangers of the third rail. Breathless, hopping over stagnant puddles of pooled water, avoiding the scurrying rats and the assorted detritus of urban life which had been sucked into the tunnel by the undulations of stopping trains. They could feel a lifelike electricity in the air as they made their way deeper into the damp enveloping blackness, it made the hair on their arms stand erect. Ears listening expectantly, they heard the train now pulling away in the opposite direction they furtively moved, continuing its southbound trajectory. The unnerving sound of metal rubbing against metal, slowly faded the further the train got away from the station. As the echoing of the squeaking wheels became distant, a surprising quietude washed over the dank surroundings. A peacefulness which made it feel as if they existed alone in a manmade subterranean cave, like blind mole rats running feral in an abandoned world.
As their eyes adjusted to the lack of light, they sought out an alcove they were familiar with from past excursions. They knew it was about sixty feet from the tunnel opening and off to the left side of the southbound tracks. Finding it, they knew themselves to now be safely out of the way of the next oncoming train, scheduled to arrive in about five minutes time. Though the Toronto subway schedule should only be treated as estimated time, it usually skewed wildly far from actual. In the darkness, with the glow from a dim emergency safety light, ten feet away, they could just make out a raised platform off to the side of the tracks. Johnathon being the taller of the two, was able to clamber up on his own, providing his hand to assist in helping Maxine up, once he was safely settled. After they were both up on the six foot by six foot wooden scaffold like dais, they caught their breath and started to shed the many layers of clothing they were wearing. All their jackets, snow pants, jeans, hoodies, T-shirts, laid around them like the comfortable, insides of a Bedouin tent. The cool air around them was moving, as it subtly whispered through the tunnel. They experienced a stillness, a calmness, a tranquility, one wouldn’t expect in the subway system. They felt alive together in their, now comfortable oasis, 50 metres beneath the mid-town, midday, late winter hustle, happening at street level.
To Max and John this winter had been long and had felt endless. The City had broken several one hundred year old weather records. They were homeless and living precariously since their Unemployment Insurance (EI) ran out and they had to go on Welfare (OW). This left them with barely enough money for food, hygiene items and clothing replacements, they didn’t qualify for a housing allowance. Mostly they got by on a little extra cash by panhandling for change. Johnathon could no longer busk on the street, in Kensington Market. His guitar had been trashed months ago, by the City.
The couple had been living in a tent, surrounded by discarded wooden pallets, under the Gardiner Expressway at Bay Street, back in October. The City had been bent on ridding commuters of the unsightly view of the encampment they were part of. Riot Police had violently cleared out the area early one morning, making multiple arrests. Johnathon had spent four nights at Max’s bedside in St. Mikes hospital. She had IV tubes putting fluids and antibiotics into her, a catheter flushing away her waste. The result of an abscess on her left arm combined with tetanus which happened when she was poked by a rusty wire from a metal fence. She had been out scrounging for empty beer cans to buy breakfast, at dawn one morning a week prior, when it happened. It’s very difficult to prevent infection when homeless and after a week the unhealed wound, was very angry, sore and appeared to be spreading up her arm. At 10 am the day she was discharged from hospital, they arrived back at their “home” to the sight of a line of yellow clad, bicycle cops, blocking off the area and a frontend loader dumping all their belongings, into the back of a dump truck. They lost everything they owned, winter clothes, sleeping bags, toiletries, guitar, tent, an album of family photos, books, letters, Max’s journal and Johnathon’s book of songs he had written. They watched it all get hauled away, feeling sick to their stomachs. It left them uncertain and afraid for their next night, homeless without any belongings. Some Streets to Homes workers offered them a shelter referral. Most places in the shelter system separated couples and neither of them felt safe in those dormitories without each other. All the spaces for couples were full. This left them no alternative than the streets, as they were economically locked out of the rental housing market and faced the near impossibility of finding employment without having a fixed address.
They had wandered, aimless that first night. At one point slipping into a subway station and riding a train from end to end, east to west, west to east, until service ended and the train parked itself for the night. They found themselves forced to exit the last train by a surly Toronto Transit employee in a suburb that they knew nothing about, in the East end of the city. That night as the employee stopped watching them exit to answer his cell phone, they slipped into the tunnel and sought out a safe place to crash. It was cold and damp and the occasional train being shuttled by disturbed their sleep, but they felt safe. Safe from predators, safe from cops, safe from transit workers, safe together.
Over the next few months, they explored the tunnels. Wearing dark clothing, always mindful of Transit Cops, TTC maintenance workers and the prying judgemental eyes of the general public. They found several spots that they could use for a few nights and occasionally met other tunnel dwellers that offered valuable information from a more experienced perspective. They got caught attempting to enter the tunnel at a couple of stations, threatened with fines but gratefully let off with only a warning each time, as they were walked to street level exits. They would X that station off their mental transit maps, for the time being. They were always careful to clean up after themselves. They would take any empty water bottles and food containers out with them. They took to defecating in grocery store plastic bags to easily rid the environment of evidence that they had been making a “home” in the underground. They would dump all the evidence in a public trash container on their way out of the station each day.
Today though, it was the middle of the day and they were looking for a place to feel human. To connect as a couple away from the dirty, harsh city streets. A little flesh touching flesh, arms around each other, physical contact, sex. They wanted each other, they needed each other, they missed the intimacy they used to have in a warm bed, under clean sheets, before their lives went sideways.
Johnathon lost his job a couple of months back. He had been with the same company for eight years. He was trained and worked as a tool and die maker, manufacturing parts for school buses. When the shop he worked for got outbid for a contract renewal by a company in Mexico, he became redundant and with only the Unemployment benefits, he had paid into, he was barely able to cover the rent. Then Maxine’s hours got cut as her employer figured out that his company didn’t have to pay benefits to part-time staff. So now between them they could pay the rent but nothing else. After a couple of months they got behind on the rent and got evicted from their rental housing. There was no safety net for them, their income no longer covered the rent, so there was no way to catch back up. Maxine had taken on a second part-time job, but it barely helped with food. Provincial rental subsidies only went to those who were already homeless. There was no program to help keep them housed. They both looked for work but couldn’t find anything that paid more than minimum wage. Minimum wage did not pay rent in what had become Canada’s most expensive city.
Today, a slushy early March day they were hoping to put reality on hold for an hour or so. Having stripped down to underwear they kissed slowly, holding on to one another, passion rising like the steam coming off their exposed body parts. Their kisses becoming harder, their tongues more probing, the body grasping firmer. The space between them disappeared.
The level of the platform they were on was about five feet above the rails, the same level as the bottom of the subway window. They were off to the side after a small blind. This meant the subway conductor wouldn’t see them from his front window seat as he readily approached the station. The lack of light would prevent the train passengers from seeing them in the darkness which hugged them, like a black blanket. Because the subway cars are lit on the inside, Max and John could see very clearly into them.
After several trains has passed and the sexual tension had built up between them. Maxine pulled her panties down to her thighs and got on all fours facing towards the southbound train tracks. Johnathon pulled out his swollen cock and firmly yet, slowly entered her warm pussy from behind. Holding her hips tightly with his strong hands, he started gently thrusting himself in and out of her. Their hunger for each other was rising as they listened for another approaching train. He actively picked up his pace as they started to hear the distant rumble of a train approaching. As it got closer and louder he got faster, louder, faster, louder, louder, faster, louder, faster, faster, louder, faster, louder, louder, louder, louder. At the first flash of light from the passing train they both reached orgasm. As the interior light of the lit up windows flashed past, it made them squint from the sudden brightness and the juxtaposed scene of Johnathon still hard and inside Maxine while the passengers, in perfect view to them, stood fully dressed, oblivious and staring into the void, looking directly at them in their passionate act, without actually seeing them. They screamed themselves hoarse, gasping for breath and collapsing onto the platform. The sound merging with the squealing of the slowing train, once the conductor’s car entered the station and the last windowed passengers, passed them by.
They felt unified in the shared experience, both satiated in the way only sexual communion can achieve. Hearts beating hard in their chests. Two sets of lungs panting for air. After the train fully stopped in the nearby station they lay on their backs in the quieter darkness, Max’s head on John’s chest, his left arm draped around her shoulder, his hand rising and falling with the up and down movement of her breasts. The two of them now lost in the quiet revery of the moment. Happy to have each other, happy to have found a way to share this time together. Happy.
They had a joke between them about these moments underground. As neither of them had ever been on a plane and were doubtful they ever would, the idea of joining the Mile High Club, seemed very unlikely. So they coined themselves members of the Quarter Mile Underground Club and kept their membership as active as they could, given their current circumstances.