The Subway Ride

My least favorite part of yesterday? Going to the DMV for the third time. Second to that? Getting food poisoning and barfing for an hour. Yes, the DMV is worse than being sick.

I know there is no way I will be able to describe this subway ride that will be as good as actually being there, but let me start by at least setting the scene.

Directly in front of me, at the end of one of those long benches, is a hindu or a sikh or something, (what do I know from God?) who is wearing a business suit and an overcoat, but peaking out from the sleeves of his pants and suit coat is one of those pale pink scrubs material prayer outfits and in the center of his forehead is a red smudge, like on ash wednesday but red. He is reading a small book and muttering prayers. He does nothing else in this story but take up *way* more room than he should for a man who is about five foot five.

Next to him is a sort of Jewish faux Sex-In-The-City type, small chested, small wasted, small assed, who is reading a woman’s magazine. Between her feet on the floor of the subway is one of those boutique shopping bags, see-through soft crinkly plastic with not very much in it, but propped open.

Next to her, but sitting about a half-person’s length away, is a ghetto fabulous black woman, gorgeous, hair dyed in strips of brass, blonde and brown and wearing those rimless sunglasses that are dark up by her eyebrows and fade to clear by her nose. She’s wearing a suede jacket with a huge fur collar over her tight earth tone outfit ending in suede patchwork high heel knee high boots.

I’m on the other side, listening to, I’m not lying, opera on my ipod. Next to me is a girl, and next to the girl is her mother.

The girl is right around three years old, she’s sort of walking without much help, but she didn’t talk the whole time we were on the train. She was latina, but I only knew that from her mom, she could have been native American or Chinese, she was just gorgeous. Round face, piercing huge dark round eyes – her entire leg was just shy of the length of my femur, she spent most of the ride sliding down the seat and the pushing herself back up.

When she got on, she sat on the bench and spent the next three or four minutes gazing deeply into her mother’s face. It was an unsettling gaze, a hard questioning gaze, and I know because I was next. She flashed her gaze on me while I was giggling at her, and there was no accusation in her eyes, but *research*. I have a terrible memory, especially for faces, and I can remember her eyes *exactly*, like they’ve left that flashbulb trace when your eyes are closed.

The ride continues, and the music swells in my headphones and at the next stop, a young man gets on the train. Ghetto-fabulous lady is checking her cell-phone… wait, we’re in the subway, you can’t check your cellphone… it turns out, she’s checking her reflection in the turned-off cellphone’s face plate. She likes what she see and puts the phone away.

The young man is holding a large backpack, and he’s a normal sized guy, but he still tries to fit in the half-person spot between Ghetto-Fab and Sex-In-The-City. He shuffles his ass in between them, which only makes the praying man with his arms and legs spread out look more ridiculous.

The three year old is interested in none of this. She is looking past me out the back window of the train. There is a blue light there. She decides it’s fine and goes back to looking at her feet. The train leaves

The backpack kid starts opening and closing different pouches on his bag. He’s *shuffling*, and the ladies around him aren’t used to being shuffled outside, y’know, the club. This kid looks like he’s one step too creepy and one step too handsome to be a close friend of mine, he’d be just on the outside of my closest friends, but he’d still be someone I knew. He’s too young, but he looks like he’s got some art-related business to peddle.

The girl next to me is staring at me, but playing with the tiny balls that run along the bottom of her pink shawl. She has on pink socks and polished black shoes.

The group in front of me is perfect New York. No-one cares about ehtnicity or religion, they care about space. Space is all we are really fighting for. In Isreal, if it was three times as big with half the people, there wouldn’t be as much a problem. In New York, we just need a coupla million people to move and we’ll be better.

A bad negotiation for backpack boy and suddenly, disaster. Out of one of the pockets a yellow legal paper slides out, and out of the folded yellow legal paper, about thirty polaroids dump out on to the floor of the subway.

I told Mac and Jordana this story, and I loved the look on their faces. “Polaroid” means only one thing. As Mac said, “polaroids are pictures you don’t want the kid at the 24-hour developing place to look at.” If I told you that a guy was carrying around a stack of polaroids in an envelope, that would mean something to you.

I didn’t see all of them. But the ones I saw were just people, some laughing, some making silly faces, and some pulling shirts up slightly, like the beginnings of a striptease.

Here’s the thing, the fell out, not just on the ground, but also into the see through bag of the Sex-In-The-City girl, and the kid started picking them up *way* before anyone had a chance to even process what had happened, in a nervous frenzy.

This guy had private porn spilling into the subway? Holy crap, this was just terrible for this kid, humiliating. The Sex-In-The-City girl was trying to help him get his pictures out of her bag, and they were sort of shoving each other’s hands away because the kid didn’t want this lady to have the pictures, but this lady didn’t want this kid’s hands all up in her shit. Ghetto-Fabulous blew an enormous bubble.

I turned to look at the little girl.

She was staring, right up at me, her beautiful eyes burning right into my heart and her hand, which had reached out to my jacket to steady her during the last turn, was pulling my wallet slowly out of my pocket.

Her mother saw this and was mortified, and started saying something to her, those quiet condemnations that lovely mothers give their children in *really* embarassing situations, and I sat there and laughed and tried not to lose the staring contest the girl was having with me. Lips in full pout, eyes completely on mine, she struggled to get my wallet free of my pocket. Her mother finally reached across and pulled the girl’s hand away, just as my stop came up.

I mean, I only had about five bucks in there. The ride was worth way more than that.