Saturday, June 12, 2010
It's Friday, um headed home. The B train to Brooklyn final got enough joy out of it's stop and go approach to the station, when the doors open at Atlantic avenue I can't wait to escape. I'd be running up the stairs even if I weren't frustrated with my commute and ready to shed the stank of a work week. Little known fact is that Atlantic Avenue station soon to be christened in honor of corporate welfare is not only one of the ten largest metropolitan transportation hubs on the planet, it's also running on a schedule that causes all the trains running there to arrive at the same time.
Two steps at a time and in seconds I'm thirty feet higher, still underground, awaiting the south bound IRT. Nobody calls it that anymore, maybe a few but nobody new.
An indecisive jet of cool tunnel atmosphere surges over us and when the doors open, crowded platform meets crowded subway train. It's twister really. I've played that kids game and never contoured myself nearly as much as the way you need to do in a NYC subway car just to get to that strangely undesired oasis of open space always equidistant from the open doors.
This time instead of doing a Matrix-esque leaning rotation to avoid some enormous backpack, I'm avoiding a serving platter. My insta-punchline mind responses,"I knew brooklyn was gentrifing but this..." cue wiggling groucho eyebrows... It is an actual serving tray though, and while it may be made of cheap plastic, and its ornate clear lid made the same,the array of sandwiches "under glass" look very real, simply made and tasty. A young lady northern european in long lost lineage and likely now brooklyn based is holding the tray with one hand. she and a similar friend (sans tray) are having a completely incidental conversation, and all the while swaying, as we all do to the beat and drum of the express train to Utica Ave.
I continue musing, as I do, at the scene. The voice that bellows now is from another time. Loud. Amplified. Crisp. It's the way you expect a radio personality to speak in person, all clear and from the deep diaphragm. It's because of that sonic quality that I look. I never look, there are two many such voices periodically bursting through otherwise quiet of a subway car, even before opening the doors linking one car to the next, an making claims of poverty, basketball uniforms, senior trips, and blatant disregard for organized labor, for me to pay attention to. But the voice has gotten the attention of all of us. I see everyone looking wondering about this sound and the simple worn message it lifts.
Now is when I wish you could have been there.
How perfect. Can you imagine? This voice-keeper, explaining directly his desire for assistance, his willful surrender of pride, in order that he may get enough to make it through a day, a life, with barely anything. Or so he claimed. And unlike the men younger, probably more fit than me, whose sneakers cost more than my glasses and still beg for cash, this man seemed to be living his impoverished words. How perfect than when the young tray totting newcomer offered him a sandwich. As he was carrying a sack with one hand, a torn fast food cup cradling crumpled dollar bills in the other, it made sense and felt even better when the newcomer offered the entire tray and all it's probably conference room intended and ignored, deliciousness.
The image of the elder man stuffing the entire tray (I guess he couldn't just through the sandwiches in individually) into his bag was both poignant and comically. Somewhere my mind conjured a happy reverse Santa, irregardless of this man's umber glow and compact body. And we all smiled as a result, outward, inward, in chatter, in the distinctly New York way in which sudden color commentators inform their fellow eyewitnesses of what is happening and has happened, right before assuming how this story came to be and what happen when it's all out of eyeshot. this was necessary, though unplanned.
When I was a child, my grandmother got me into jigsaw puzzles, and there was always this uncomfortable suspension, waiting, watching, near limbo, gazing out the hundred and thousand pieces, waiting. Until finally a peak. When two pieces that seemingly had no business, suddenly clearly connect and complete. and only then did it seem plausible that the picture could ever improve. Friday in Brooklyn, on the IRT #4 to Utica Avenue, at the end of the work week we were so needing for the pieces to fit.