Monday, September 22, 2003

It Won't Be Long 09.22.03

***Saturday Night***

I bid my goodbyes to Pixel and the newly-arrived Kat, pissed at myself that I tarried too long. I knew I had to go home! I know the LIRR only comes at 1.04 and at 2.55! I knew I had no place to go!

Pissed but happy. Their waiter—I’d say “our” but I didn’t order anything—was loving his day, spewing sarcasm all over the ladies like Lexington Steele spews… other substances…

Diversion. The waiter was quick with the comebacks, the overworked attitude, the suggestions, the cracks, which was perfect for Kat + Pixel, but I got so caught up in playing that I was, well, at the point the first paragraph started us with here. Pissed at myself at tarrying.

I took off. In a very Prefontaine manner. I got the speed up—after all, I only had twenty minutes to make it from 7th and Avenue A to 34th and 7th Avenue—and I ain’t taking a cab. Because I could do better. I could make it. And if I did not it is my fault anyway.

The feet are moving one, two, one, two, I have a good rhythm. The streets, empty until almost 2nd Avenue, start to become clogged. Couples are in the way, Trash bags, dog-walkers, threesomes of women. I run like a football player, looking for my holes. Slow. Studder step. Get low. Burst. Stride long. Short steps. Slide steps. Burst. Blinking red = sprint, on toes, power from the thighs, sprint high, pump arms.

Until I reach the N/R a.k.a. the Never Rarely train. There is also the W that runs local sometimes, but that does not fit neatly into the “never rarely” mythmaking; because the N/R is always true to form. Never there. Rarely comes when you need it. Even and especially during rush hour. The train line is like a practical joke.

I sprint down the stairs in two-by-twos, hoping a train will be pulling in, softly coming to a stop, so I can swipe the mighty Metrocard and take a swift ride to commuter rail.

Of course there’s no train there. Were you really thinking that there would be a train? I mean, I led you this point with Never and Rarely. It wouldn’t hold to form if a train actually came. Sigh.

I am covered in sweat. I lean against the painted black metal grate, catch my breath. A young couple tries to explain that they used their Metrocard at a nearby station and it was not accepted; the token booth clerk has little pity and the couple, kids, really, become all constipated about it. They try to relate to him, they try to browbeat him. He lets them in anyway (was it a pay-per ride? Their argument made no sense to me) and they don’t even say thank you. I have been watching this exchange…

…For five minutes. Time is critical. I need some commuter rail. I promised myself that if I didn’t see a train in five minutes I would go topside and see if I couldn’t find the cabbie willing to pick me up, even though I am on an uptown street and similarly hued as Danny Glover .

But, what if a train is just on the underground horizon? Lighting its way from two stops down, not yet heralded by bright lights or the clarion horn that splits our rush hour ears? It is decided. I will check first since I am f**ked anyway.

The platform is packed. I hear a beep right behind me. More people entering the station. With this many people, a train is bound to come, right? The MTA knows our needs, that’s why they charge us 2 bones. For service!

I take a stroll down the platform and I admit to engaging in my favorite pastime, “birdwatching.” There is no train, and I one can see to the Prince Street station from the back of 8th Street, maybe a little further, before the tracks recede into a maw, lit by yellow dots of light. There is no hope coming.

The rest of the people feel it. They find spots near the two exits and use their cellular phones, playing with their pleated skirts. They lay on the ground in their faded jeans and scruffy faux-hawk hair. They lean into their significant others who adjust the buttons on the three button polos which prove a little thin for the evening.

This platform one is very clean… looking. As such, two women and two men are in various states of bored, one woman sitting on the platform, one man leaning over her and keeping her occupied, the other pair by the wall, looking at their counterparts next to them.

The leaning over man is obviously frustrated. He paces back and forth and is making cracks, not audible from my distance but evident in his language.

He starts with almost a wail. “Lean on me!”

Then I realize he sang “N-R train.” (These are all approximations—I didn’t transcribe the lyrics. For the real Bill Withers lyrics hit this) Followed by more chorus:

where have you gone.
I need a train.
I need to gooooo home.
please don’t be long,
cause I need a train,
a train to carry me home.

You, could be a N,
Could be an R,
Maybe a W,
no train is wrong,
I need a train,
a train to take me home!

By now, people are giggling, putting down their cellular phones, smiling, singing along, clapping! The underground is alive with reverberating claps! Almost in sync, that sound bouncing off the walls and waking up the drunk and jaded and blue-balled! He went back to:

N-R train
where have you gone.
I need a train.
I need to gooooo home.
N, R,
please don’t be long,
cause I need a train,
a train to carry me home.

Then he got into it:

Just call on me brother,
I need a train
We all need a train to take us home
I just might have a problem,
I got to go home
We all need a train to lean on—

And I could see the lights illuminating from Prince Street, coming on strong, and the rising gust of wind, and the feel of the subway running, and the sound of the wheels and tracks racketing, and a mighty cheer exploded from the waiting passengers, cheers and claps and laughter.

If a rain song brings rain then a train song should bring train, correct, by the same naming conventions? Our very own train song, then, for:

the boys in the jeans with the i-pods and tattoos, for the overdramatic kids discussing being high and whether the boy with the poems knows her mom well enough to sleep over, for the bachelorette in the pink feather boa and her helpmeets in flowered tops and knee-length skirts. All finally, going home.

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