The milk dud rolled across the floor. Its origin was unclear. There was no doubt, however, that it had been separated from its original packaging and fellow milk duds. Its surface was pristine, uneven but shiny, though even a ravenous teenager would surely turn up her nose at its drab, milk chocolaty coloring. And its edibility was tainted now that it had made the intimate acquaintance of the floor of metro train 51, direction Amsterdam Central Station. No one in a right mind would touch it. Not me, not the Russian-speaking couple sitting across from me, not the middle-aged woman with her face partly hidden by a scarf. We all watched its progress, though, and pondered the transformation from delicious to disgusting so easily determined by time and place.
The train came to a stop. Amsterdam Amstel. The milk dud was slammed cruelly into the front end of the train car, bouncing back. An overhead voice announced a transfer option: Overstappen op tram 12.
The doors opened. The Russian speaking couple disembarked. A group of students got on. The milk dud was out of their reach, resting under the seat in front of me. The students sat down. Several were nondescript. Two males were dark haired with curious eyes. A female dominated the group’s attention.
The train lurched forward. The milk dud sprang into action, rolling toward the group of students. I felt myself leaning in the direction of its travel, the forces of the train’s acceleration having a similar but much less dramatic effect on my positioning. Though a personal investment in its survival was not reasonable, I found myself holding my breath, hoping that no one would stomp on it and halt its journey. I didn’t have to worry. The students were much too consumed with their own conversation.
The blonde girl’s voice rose above the others, her eyes wide, arms waving. Some of them nodded. Others just stared. The conversation dipped down again. One of the dark haired males was quick to reassure her.
The train slowed again. I knew that deceleration would send the milk dud in my direction. The driver really hit the brakes this time, and the milk dud crashed into my foot before I had the chance to react. I gasped – quietly, as my interest in this object was potentially beyond normal parameters. The milk dud had already rolled away, bouncing against one seat leg then the other, a helpless victim of the forces of nature, unable to control its direction or speed.