Life, man. Life.
The 1 train at South Ferry is a very nice place to think, at least for the seven minutes it sits idle before leaving, plus the three minutes it takes to get to Chambers Street, where you transfer to the 2 or the 3. You transfer to the 2 or 3 if you actually want to get where you’re going. You stay on the 1 if you don’t give a flying fuck. I transferred today. I was in the rear car of the train, so when I got to Chambers, I walked around that inexplicable railing on the south end of the uptown platform, sat on it, and waited for the 2.
You don’t really sit on that rail. You lean. It’s a comfortable lean for someone my height, but with the heat on the platform and the never-ending trickle of jerkoffs that stand too close, you can’t settle in the way you want to. You’re always on the move, squirming. Inching left. Inching right. Taking a walk. Checking the sign to see when the next fucking train is coming. Making as much forward progress as you can, just to get the shit over with and get home. Or get to work. There’s really nowhere else to go, is there?
That’s what there is for me right now. Home and work. Work is work, and I can shut it down and not think about what happened on Sunday – at least not constantly. Home is home, and I tend to dwell on it, but at least I’m in the middle of it, which is where I need to be, and where people need me. In between is where I figured I’d find problems, but when I ride the subway, all I’m thinking about is how to ride the fucking subway. None of this shit’s on my mind when I’m worried about staying as far away from them as I comfortably can. When I’m checking to see if the 2 train passed the 1 train so I’ll know whether changing trains is worth the hassle. When I’m worried about keeping my new briefcase off the floor. When I’m enraged at the people who don’t give a shit how loud their fucking music is when it comes through their cheesy-ass stock iPod earbuds.
When some guy slides between trains with a bucket and yells about how “lucky” I am and wants my money.
I remember the first time I took her into Manhattan with me on one of my school-cutting deals. It was a bad idea, and I knew it, but I did it anyway. I’d cut school and take the train down to West 4th Street and play basketball. I had a purple backpack. I would pack my ball, some bananas and a container I’d frozen the night before so it would melt and turn into cold water. When I got to the playground, I’d climb all the way up to the top of the fence and hang my backpack on one of the metal posts. That way, if anyone went up there to steal it, even while I was playing, I’d see him and raise the hue and cry – and people wouldn’t put up with that shit back then. Even the street guys. Nothing ever happened.
I played and played and played and sat on the side, waiting for more run with guys who didn’t have homes. I could shoot.
I took her in there on the train and we roamed around, and she watched me play ball, and then we roamed around some more and went home. We were filthy by the time we got back. The city was a dirty shithole back then, and basketball at West 4th was about the dirtiest thing a 16-year-old kid could do in Manhattan short of driving a backhoe. We didn’t know where the fuck we even were. I wish I knew the city now like I knew it then – which was not so much. It still had something for us. It doesn’t anymore. Especially not now. The only surprises you get now are ones you don’t want.
But when I think of that stuff when I think about New York, everything else goes away the way I want it to. I was all about this place for a long, long time, and I want to be again. I just need her to make it and it’ll be okay again. I know it will. We’ve come too far from there to just fold up.