August 11, 2011

Lean on me. A subway story.

I take the A train every day. It’s the blue line that runs the entire length of Manhattan, into Brooklyn, and all the way to John F. Kennedy International Airport. During the day this train is pretty fast, given the tracks don’t catch on fire and what not. Isn’t that crazy? Train tracks, underground, catching on fire, like, all the time? Apparently it happens when stupid people throw their McDonalds bags into the tracks, which are promptly set ablaze when the train’s wheels rub hard enough against the tracks. Sparks fly when they make love. I can relate. But at least the posters in my bedroom don’t catch on fire when I do it. (That only happened once.)

Subway car interior

The A train is fast because it’s an express line. It doesn’t waste time by stopping at every damn stop, which are pretty damn frequent. That’s the local train’s job. I don’t know why this concept was hard for me to understand the first time I visited the city. Once you’re forced to use the subway for at least a week you’ll wonder why it was difficult to navigate at all. And then you realize that the express trains aren’t express trains all the time, and switch to local service after certain times during the week and after different certain times on the weekend, and they switch tracks at the same time. Shit, I thought I had this down…

So, if you’re downtown on a Tuesday night, which I was, and you need to ride 170 blocks uptown, which I did, it’s going to be a really fucking long ride. Most people are Mr. Wastey Face by this point, because for some reason Tuesday is the new Saturday for New Yorkers. Don’t ask me. I’m new at this. In any event, we all just take this opportunity to get an hour or so’s sleep on the way home. It can be pretty nice, actually, when you’re drunk and tired. The train cars rock back and forth gently through the tunnels, like a cradle in the treetop. You can nod off pretty fast. Or the bough can break and down you can fall, into a pool of your own vomit, cradle and all. But that hasn’t happen to me. No really, it hasn’t. It hasn’t. And I will do everything in my power to not do such as thing. I promise. (I’m getting so defensive about this that I’m starting to believe it may have actually happened.)

On this particular Tuesday evening I had a metallic blue strip down the front of me. It began at the crown of my head, went down the center parting of my hair, then down the center of my face, neck, and chest, disappearing into the neckline of my sparkling cocktail dress. It was a fun night, and my feet were dying. No really, dying. They were completely numb. I’m sure my toes were blue. Yeah, they felt totally blue. But whatevs, my six-inch platforms are worth it. They’re always worth it.

I was the only person who happened to stumble into this particular train car, and I had it all to myself. This just meant that I could finally release the fart that I had been holding inside for the past thirty minutes while waiting for the train. There were other people standing, like, ten feet away on the platform. I know, know, one of them would have sniffed, intentionally and loudly, turning their head in my direction and asking the person next to them, “Do you smell that?” I couldn’t risk it. But now, in my train car, it was open season.

Then, as luck would have it, at the next stop, a fucking gorgeous boy stumbled into my car and landed beside me. Empty car, and he sat beside me. He was obviously intoxicated and probably had no idea where he was and probably thought this was the train to New Jersey and probably thought I was a girl and I DIDN’T CARE ABOUT THAT. I just looked straight ahead, pretending to ignore him but really watching his every move just as any good new New Yorker would do. And pretty soon his head started bobbing, ever so slowly, back and forth, as he rode the train to dreamland.

Of course at this point I just turned my whole body in his direction and was trying VERY HARD not to attack him, because really his whole body was probably numb so he wouldn’t feel me eating his face off anyway RIGHT? I pondered this. For a long time. Perhaps too long, because I missed by chance. After the train took a sharp turn he started leaning in my direction. “Oh god,” I thought, “he’s headed this way.”

He was falling for me. Very, very slowly. There was only a hand-width’s gap between us, but it took two whole stops before his face was only inches from mine. Everything started moving in slow motion, and I could feel the air around his head move as he grew ever closer. I could see the sparks fly from his skin to mine, the static of my shoulder-length hair pulling him in, like the electricity of the tracks propelling the train forward. I took a deep breath as his cheek touched the grove of my right shoulder, and exhaled as he let his entire weight fall into me.

For a second I was frozen. I didn’t know what to do. And then, I did. I leaned my head slightly to the right, resting my ear on the crown of his head. His dark, curly hair smelled like vanilla and cigarettes, and it the best scent that had ever entered my nostrils. The train kept rocking, back and forth, back and forth, and I still stared straight ahead, watching our reflection in the glass of the window on the other side of the car. We looked like one of those pictures you might see on a New York City postcard – a young city couple riding the subway, hopelessly in love. I closed my eyes, and instantly fell asleep.

I had no idea how much time had past, but I was jerked awake when the train slammed on brakes at 175th St. My new friend was jerked awake, too. He didn’t say anything. He didn’t even look me in the eye. He lifted his head, stood up, and walked calmly off the train. I didn’t look to see which direction he was going or to see if he even made it up the stairs. I just kept gazing straight ahead. I was alone in the reflection now, and I didn’t like it. I felt like Carrie, sitting alone at her birthday party, waiting for everyone to show up, eventually having to leave, still alone, paying for her own cake. Sometimes the sex and the city really does go to your head. Is this why I moved here? To ride on a train car? Alone?

Part of me wanted to imagine that he was actually awake the entire time and that he had planned the whole thing, but I didn’t have much time to think about it. I was getting off at the next stop and almost didn’t make it through the doors before they slammed shut behind me. I keep hoping I’ll see him again on the train, just to know that he was real. I keep hoping a man will sit down next to me, and without even looking up from my book I will smell vanilla and cigarettes, knowing exactly who he is.


  1. i love your blog, and your writing, and i can't wait to share in your adventures in a week. just applied to 4 jobs and have 0 confidence in them. oh sigh. love love

  2. I can't wait either, darling. And I know how you feel. I just submitted my application to a salad restaurant. I hate salads so, so much. xo


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