Riding Metro North. With Both Thumbs.

5:40 am to Grand Central. Standing room only, 4 men stand in the vestibule. How is this possible on the second train of the day?

One of the four left standing, leans against the railing.  Italian shoes. Beats Wireless Ear buds. A snappy form fitted Canada Goose vest. Shirt cuffs unbuttoned. Stylin’. A Starbucks cup in one hand, a smartphone in the other, he flicks screens, grins, and sips his coffee.

Lady in the seat directly across reads the New York Times. Yes, like a real newspaper, a legitimate oddity on a commuter train. A glance up and down the rail car reveals no single other newspaper, just the hum of the air-conditioning and the silent flicking of hundreds of index fingers.

Lady next to her, a face white as snow, contrasting with her black coat, tall black knee high boots, and the white skin of the knee bunching out of a black knee brace. She grips a large, black, Samsonite wheeled carry on, with her black back pack resting on top.  Her makeup groans to cover darkening bags under the eyes. The dike is leaking, age is ready to break, for her, for me. Cat Steven’s tune drifts in: Morning has broken….black bird has spoken…

To my left, man with Hoodie pulled tight over a baseball cap. DeWalt branded gloves, sharp yellow and black. A two-wheeled kick scooter leans against wall.  White Fila tennis shoes. He snores softly.

The poster on wall above him shouts: “One Happy Commute”. Enter now.  Just tweet us why you’d love to visit Aruba with #onehappycommute #sweepstakes.  One tweet could win you two seats to One happy island! Shimmering greens on the ocean.”  I’m swept away momentarily, a tropical breeze brushes the cheek, the palms rustle overhead. Fantasy Island is interrupted by a pre-recorded call, the Harlem – 125th St stop – 10 minutes to Grand Central.

My eyes catch my thumbs. Nails bit to the quick. I tuck them in, hang nails from ripped skin biting, can’t bare to look, can’t bear to be judged – man lacks discipline, lacks confidence, lacks self-control, just lacks – Nora Gallagher’s “and thus I doubt.”  Don’t quite belong, not here, not now, an imposter obfuscating. But be damned, and I repeat, be damed if I come up short. Especially, that is, when mostly many believe you have this Right.

I catch the glance of Black Bird. I tuck my thumbs in my palms.  Berger’s intimacy contained in the exchange of a glance, a nod of the head, a smile, a shrug of a shoulder.” She’s caught me as I scan the car for my subjects. Ah ha! Gotcha Man, know what you are doing.

A glance, a nod, a smile.

I’ll never see her again.



  1. I used to work in downtown Chicago and take the train in. Downtown was always a cornucopia of fashion and life, and so was the train. What stories could be created!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You definitely have it Right, DK. Enjoyed riding with you, your thumbs and the Black Bird.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Blackbird covers herself in black to block her energy and connection to others, you try and hide your thumbs, but every now and then we are seen; and in that moment we reveal our humanness, connection and vulnerability. Not many have it right, not many have it sorted Mr K. We are all in this together, wounded, scarred and scared. You write beautifully, you really do. You are whole just the way you are. Excuse the long comment. 😀🙏🏻

    Liked by 5 people

  4. loved reading this.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. My favorite post of each week…these are the humans of NY. Bravo, my friend..

    Liked by 2 people

  6. So beautifully Human. And beautifully written as always.

    Did I tell you I check the train to make sure you are NOT there? 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  7. you are a keen observer of the details of life and the people within. it seems you are part curious, and trying to figure them out, and part in a competition of sorts, to see if you are as real and deserving as your role as they are. i can assure you that you are.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. (“in” your role – see above)

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Scientists at the University of Montreal published a study recently that suggests perfectionism might be at the root of nail biting. After reading your post, I would tend to agree!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Loving that black bird. Dike leaking, age breaking, but she’s about to find out that it’s not so bad after all. Neither are your nails…don’t hide those hands. Another great commuter post, thanks for being present.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Do you make notes on the ride? Or do you have an amazing memory or imagination? All of the above? Makes for great writing anyway. It’s in the details.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. I wouldn’t sweat the thumbs too much buddy. I worked for a chef one time that chewed the side of his thumb. He had been chewing it for so long that it had actually grown an appendage to it, and now he chewed the appendage.
    I could tell him “Chef, some of the lamb racks for 500 are overcooked” and unconsciously, his thumb would go to his mouth, and he’d start chewing on his “friend”.
    “How many?” he would ask.
    Depending on the answer, and how available a solution was, he might stop chewing sometimes. But not usually.

    Always enjoy your commutes. I’ve told you before it makes me wish mine was longer tat 7 minutes.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. We may notice the external details of others, but judge the internal details of ourselves using the same criteria.
    It isn’t so.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. David, you’re such a great storyteller. You reveal so much of your deeper self in your writing, allowing the reader to touch their own deeper humanity, as a result. Kudos.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. You are a great writer, David; your vulnerability lights the way for us all. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  16. I loved and I agree with many of them you are great writer, thinker, Thank you dear David, have a nice weekend, Love, nia

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Great post-David. Loved reading it. I remember those days well.
    The difference I rode the subway from Queens to Manhattan every
    day. The more things change the more they stay the same. ☺☺

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Linda H. says:

    Oh, I have missed your musings, especially your commuter notes. Unplugged for several weeks on a trip. In a city, I rarely make eye contact for fear of what could happen, but reading this today made me realize this time I purposely willed others with a smile, a nod, a look to share a moment in time on an island 6,000 mi. from land. It felt good to connect one human to another. Thanks!

    Liked by 2 people

  19. I wonder. How much of this gets past the gnawed thumbs? All these comments and thanks for writing that flows from you like water?

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Ack, pal, so late to this party! Somehow this post slipped past me, which is not good, because like Mimi, I love these character studies — you capture the humanity around you so beautifully and give voice to the doubts and insecurities that plague all of us, yet often remain unspoken. Sally forth with those thumbs, pal, they’re part of a great package! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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