You want to sit on the end because only one person will be next to you. Also if you sit on the end, you can rest your head behind you. Your head will rest on the panel behind you that is an ad or a subway map or a nice poem about a house and roast chicken or scaffolding and love or stars and the winter sky. In the middle of the bench, there are windows behind you, and they are too far back to rest your head on.
This morning a lady at the end of the car dropped her black cane across the aisle, and it made a loud crack, that could be heard over the music in our headphones, and some of us looked over, it was that loud, and the man who sat across from her was handing it back to her.
On an orange bench, the woman next to me had a Kindle, and I glanced over, and the title of the chapter she was reading was: “In Defense of Chest Hair,” which makes me think about death.
There are still opportunities to judge people by their reading material.
There are only two people I am familiar with from my ride into work a young woman who is dressed pretty punked up, but is reading–or more likely praying from– a Hebrew prayer book. Also a guy who is black who wears his fedora down over his eyes like he is in a movie, or to hide the fact that he is taking a quick nap.
This morning the train was a 2 instead of a 3, and I didn’t know why, and I thought about wanting to know why, but I decided it didn’t matter and I didn’t really care. There were way too many people waiting for the train, and there were not that many people on it, but I was both tired and sleepy and it didn’t matter. The 2 and 3 both go to my work stop in the same fashion. The 2 just doesn’t usually stop at my home. For whatever reason, this morning, it did.
I really, really prefer to sit on the train. I probably have been on my feet a lot at work, being a teacher constantly circulating, walking in circles all day, most days, in room B-29. I don’t mind people’s bellies and crotches in my face if it gets crowded because I’m reading, anyway, I don’t notice.
Going to work, my stop is 14th Street. It is just after Chamber Street, which I remember Chamber is like a bedroom, and right after the bedroom, I need to get off the train, not that this makes any sense. Fourteenth Street has blue. There are eyes at one Chamber Street station (though not mine, sorry to confuse), and there are high heels at 59th Street, for Bloomingdale’s, My 14th’s got nothing fancy, but the tilework is blue.
If I am tired, or it is snowing or raining, and the sign made of red dots says the 1 train is coming in less than five minutes, I may stand there and wait for it, and I will step in, walk across, and stand there while the thing goes only four blocks, which is a little embarrassing, maybe, but maybe I am very tired, especially for the last month of school, I am. My school is at 18th Street.
I know I am not home yet if there are a lot of other white people on the train with me still.
My Metro card has Grand Central on it. School kids have a lime green Metrocard that lasts them all semester. Regular ones are macaroni and cheese yellow. Mine is special, for Grand Central’s 100th anniversary, and I have held onto it, and it makes sense to put $100 worth of travel on this card, which can be identified from among others should that happen, God forbid.
It is crowded around 6:00 pm. That is the worst.
People will say, “Sorry,” if their feet touch your feet, or if their bag brushes you, or if they sit on the tie to your raincoat, or for a million other reasons including being afraid you are crazy and will flip out because how can you tell who is crazy? This afternoon a kid told me sorry because something of his must have touched something of mine and I just smiled quickly, you can also say, “It’s okay,” but the quick smile is sort of nice because then people don’t even know if you speak English. The point is, you’re supposed to corral yourself and your stuff in the smallest possible corral, this is polite.
I cannot sleep on the train, but I can doze. I might be able to sleep. I haven’t tried very hard. I don’t worry much about my safety, I am not taking the train at 2 am, probably not even at midnight, I am too rich for that, and when I do doze I have my hands over my bag, my feet around it if it’s below. There are only books in my bag below. How disappointing it would be to steal.
When loud teenagers get into our car, I want to cry. I have already done my duty with the youth. All day long. Somebody else take a shift.
An elderly Asian man leaned over to me. He started talking, but I had no idea what he was saying. I wasn’t sure if it was even English. We were sitting next to each other on a periwinkle bench on the 4 train downtown, still in Manhattan. He took his Metro card out of his pocket and held up his book. He aligned the card with the text. Moved it down a line. “Oh, I see,” I said. “That’s a very good idea.” I did not need to use my Metro card to keep my place, I was reading just fine, but he smiled.