(Originally published in the Virginia Quarterly Review)
I know New Yorkers who last took a subway in their twenties, thirty years ago, or who would rather be stuck in traffic any day than on an express train anyplace. Someday I, too, may know the luxury of a town car and driver or what it’s like to always take a taxi home. But until those hypothetical ships come in, all I can know is what I am now: a subway rider.
During my first year in New York, I took the A/C line to work each day. The West Fourth Street station was five minutes from my apartment. My favorite time was early morning. The station wasn’t crowded yet, riders weren’t rushed. People did not talk but read or listened to iPods. The smokers hacked their smokers’ coughs. Water drops—rusty tears in winter, I’d imagine, beads of sweat in summer—leaked from the steel I-beams overhead. The air was soft, as if unfinished dreams still emanated from everyone’s skin.
Waiting, however, can be a delicate business.