Sunday, January 8, 2012

Comrades of a sort

First it was just us two, me and the boy with unkempt dark hair, a backpack, and a slightly feminine face, at the first stop on the 1 train. We were uncertain that the train was running - only saw one person on it - and from that moment of shared uncertainty onwards we were comrades of a sort. An official-looking man assuaged our fears, and we started to settle a train car. He sat down, I sat down on the other side of the car doors, and he moved to sit across from me. We had a bit of a wait.

The boy asked me what I was reading. I said it was a prayer book. Praying is good in subways, I said. There's the time for it. He asked what it was - a "Tanaka"? A Torah? A siddur, I said. Are you Jewish? I asked. Yes, he said.

Before the train left the resting station, a man joined us a few seats down with a mustache and a book. I wanted to ask him what book it was, but I didn't. He was most of the way through it.

The boy had been visiting a friend and watching Nicholas Cage movies. I had been visiting a friend who was about to leave the country. He was going to take a train home from Penn Station.

Fifteen teenagers joined us. They described themselves as drunk. They sang Happy Birthday to two members of their group, adding a remix each time that changed up the rhythm. One girl spat on the floor a bit. A couple of them were quite acrobatic and made good use of the vertical and horizontal poles. The boy and I shared looks - some amiable, some shocked - and smiles. I laughed out loud once. I wondered what the others who joined us on the train thought of the teenagers. I wondered what the boy thought about teenage drinking.

We arrived at Penn Station. I was standing, leaning my back against a pole, facing down the length of the car. Have a good evening, I said. You're leaving? he asked. No, you are, I said.

He stood and said, I'm Matt. I'm Molly, I said, and he shook my hand. It was nice to meet me.

That's my brother's name, I said to Matt as he left the train.

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