I love the subway. When I moved here, people told me not to take it after a certain hour. They told me not to take certain lines. I listened, because I’m not foolhardy most of the time. But I resented it. I want a world where I can take the subway all the time, at all hours, without any fear.
New York is supposed to be one of the country’s safest cities now. What that means is that there’s only one crime for every 37 people. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound all that safe to me. Although it’s probably accurate. I did a count tonight in my head, and I probably know about 30 people well enough to say I know them, and two of them have had their pants pockets cut open on the train, and one has been mugged at gunpoint.
It’s not safe here, is my point. But there are attractions. Tonight, I rode the subway home from Hell’s Kitchen, where I met my old friend Jes for drinks. We hadn’t spoken in 5 years. When we knew each other, we were young and soft and dumb and worried, and lived in Boston. She’s married and has a baby now, and I’m … older and tougher and hopefully less dumb. Anyway, I live in New York.
She got on the bus at Port Authority, which used to have homeless crack-addicted teens living there, and now has a bowling alley (or maybe always had both.) I got on the train, and sped back to Park Slope.
If you ever look look out the window on my train, you’ll see a lot of interesting things. For one, you see your real face, not your mirror face. I have thin lips, so I make a dreadful draggy mirror face most of the time. It’s only when I catch myself unawares that I see my real expression.
You also see, long about Bergen Street on the F, the underground. The tracks opposite plunge down a level, and if you’re looking out, you can see lights beneath the platform, and trash collected beneath the tracks. No mole people, but it’s still a world no one lives in, as far as I’m concerned. Like a snowglobe, only not pretty.
Ms. Jes asked me this evening if I was happy I moved here, and I gave her my platitudes. I told her about my friends, and my apartment, which has more than one room, and my job.
“You think you’ll stay?” she asked. She lives upstate now, has a house.
“I think so. Although, you know, it’s only been a year. Ask me when I’m 35. I might have a different story for you.”
Not smiling, she looked me over. The thing I forgot about Jes is that she actually looks at people. “Some people get here and they stay forever,” she said. “It’s just where they belong.”
“Yeah, I dunno about that yet,” I glugged my beer. “But I’ll tell you. It’s better here for me, so far. It suits me. Everyone’s obsessive and crazy like me, so I don’t seem strange. I can work as hard as I want without being weird. Also, I’m cuter here than I was in Boston, as far as boys are concerned.”
“That doesn’t surprise me. You’re a New York girl.”
Nice to have confirmation of that, after a year of thinking so.