.

 

Waiting for the Train at 23rd St.

And what happened.

The station at 23rd St and the Empire State Building.

Behind me, the Empire State Building, still lord of the Midtown manor. At the entrance, a small, gray-bearded man in robes, the robes decorated with groundhog skulls, carrying a wooden spear. As I enter the station, the F train departing. The beep of the turnstile.

A bearded electric guitarist, half-hidden behind a trash can, urinating into a plastic tea bottle. A middle-aged man in girl's dress shoes, repeatedly stomping his feet and spitting over the edge of the platform, PEH! PEH!, aiming for rats. He yelled, “I get 'em!” The breeze of a coming train. The V train. The sound of the doors opening and closing. The vacuum of a leaving train.

The breeze of a coming train. The V train. The sound of the doors opening and closing. The vacuum of a leaving train.

A small, dark-haired woman in her 20s cursing the V train, waving her hands. Tile grout. Fluorescent lighting. A rat.

My dirty hands. A poster for the film What a Girl Wants, to which someone has penned in, as an answer, cock. The sound of a battery-powered guitar amp powering a cheap electric guitar as a man busks, bad Whitesnake covers echoing up and down the station.

Then Scott Rahin is thinking about how so much of life is trying to balance your sense of the moral with your sense of loyalty, thinking all over the place about tribes and companies, about the moment when the sense of what's right--the loyalty to something larger than you can see--gets you to blow the whistle, make the phone call, name something as evil. And that's really what this war looks like to him, a struggle between conscience and loyalty to country. And he's looking around, it's spring, and he feels this thing humming in the air, we're all feeling it, waiting to get home and take off all our clothes and put our arms out and our heads up to the ceiling. It'll be cold again, but just for now....

The breeze. The F train arrives. The sound of the doors opening and closing.

Placards, promises. An empty seat by a window. A tattoo of a small bird on the small of a woman's back.

.  .  .  .  .  

This piece is sponsored by Magdalen Powers (check out the excellent splash page). She's as nice a person as you'll ever meet, plus she has a book for sale, featuring fine prose and hot sex: Hand Over Fist.


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About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

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