Sunday, January 29, 2006

Take the A Train

Tonight on the A train, on which I spend about 80% of my waking hours:

Three men entered the train (running local) at 23rd Street, sandwiching a girl with dirty fingernails and white tennis shoes who was reading an Orson Scott Card science fiction novel. Two men were sober; one was drunk. They had come from a bar. The two sober men knew their role: console with pats on the back, remain largely neutral but generally supportive, keep their friend from getting out of control. The drunk man had dreadlocks and a graying goatee. He spoke in a booming, deep, slightly raspy voice.

His wife or girlfriend had left him, and had taken their baby. He was angry, sad, despairing. He was crying. He started to rant. A few people moved to the other side of the car. The girl with the dirty fingernails kept her face in the book. A Russian man laughed quietly at the drunk man's pronouncements; the Russian man's wife kept shushing him out of fear that violence would ensue.

"Fuck that fucking bitch."
"People in this country are greedy. The American Dream is just a facade."
"Money don't make you happy. Money make you comfortable. I'd rather be poor and content than rich and miserable."
"Bush is the biggest motherfucking crackhead in the history of this country."
"You won't understand how I feel until you're in your forties and you don't have a child."
"I never laid a hand on her. OJ ruined that for us."

Snickers in the subway car.

"Did you see who won that election? Hamas won that election. Motherfuckers better leave their country alone, straight like that."
"I know I'm crying. I know I'm crying. But it ain't like, 'oh, a man needs to cry to be in touch with his feelings.' No. I need to vent, get this emotion out, otherwise it'll come out in a bad way. I feel bad, man."
"And that Enron scandal. Motherfucker stole 660 million dollars, and when he gets 25 to life, he starts crying... too late now!" [laughter in the car]
"No, I won't lay a hand on her, because I'm a good man. And I value my freedom. I value my freedom, and you usually don't realize that until the click-click."
"That cracker from Enron... yeah, that's right, I said cracker. I respect all men who pay no heed to the color of skin; 'I do not judge a man by the color of his skin but by the content of his character.' But a cracker's a cracker, and a nigger's a nigger."

A man by the door interrupted with a supportive cry: "Keep fighting the power." Lucidity returned to the drunk man's face for a moment. "Wait, what? What do you mean, 'fighting the power'?" The man by the door had not expected a follow-up question. "Fuck tha police," he blurted out. The drunk man largely ignored him. The girl turned a page of her book; she was actually getting some reading done.

"I'm a good man. I just feel bad right now."

The man continued ranting and crying, his friends continued to steady him, and the girl kept reading until 125th Street, by which time the three men had missed their stop. As the drunk man departed with his friends, a studious-looking fellow approached him and said, "I just wanted to shake your hand. I've been listening to everything you were saying..." as they walked together out of the car and out of earshot.