When you hear a child scream on the other end of the train, once, then again, the second scream stifled by a hand over the child’s mouth, and you think about your four-year-old daughter and how she screams at pretty much any impulse—running around the circuit of your small apartment, being told not to do something, arguing with her sister—and you think how you, a young boy, would run home to your room so you could be alone in the house and imitate the shrieks your mother would hurl like fists at the man who had entered your house and demanded you call him Dad, would mortify your young friends’ masculine sensibilities by screaming like a girl when they least expected it, would stop in the tunnel under the railway bridge and wait for the train to pass over you and battle the locomotive’s roar for the loudest octave. You know now that you should empathize with the parent and your fellow passengers on this train, but you want instead to go to the other end of the train and tell this child something like Enjoy this, or You have a beautiful voice. Then the child begins again with a low-pitched, hurtful sustained wail, and people begin to shift in their seats and murmur at each other until you put on your headphones, unsure whether you’re blocking out the whispers or screams.

What are the Sneaky Feels?

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AuthorJohn Proctor