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.