"Oh, what the hell. Why not," said Frank aloud to himself.
"Sorry. No thank you."
"Move outta the line then."
" Please sir, you're holding up the line," reminded
the dispatcher handling the people traffic.
Agitated, Frank stepped out of the line, walked up to the corner
of 34th, then crossed the street towards Macy's and the MTA subway
to ride the Route 1 uptown. He figured he would go to Brian's
apartment building to see if his prospective mentor was at home.
"Why else would he of given to me his address?!"
On second thought, Frank decided to phone again once he was closer
to Brian's apartment. If the call went to voicemail, he would
get some lunch. Afterwards, he would go to the apartment.
Oddly enough, Frank did not even consider leaving his phone number
in Brian's voicemail.
"This already sucks," thought Frank as he waited in
the line to purchase a MetroCard from the automated machine. His
expectations of being mentored on the ins-and-outs of the New
York Art Scene were beginning to diminish.
A subway train roared to a halt, while another raced past. Believing
that he was about to miss his the uptown, Frank tried to force
feed a five dollar bill into the machine. The wrinkled money was
rejected and fell onto the dropped beverage, poorly mopped (if
at all), soda-tacky concrete. When he picked the money off the
ground, he noticed that the Route 3 was heading uptown. He saw
the Route 1 pulling away downtown. Relieved, he put the five dollar
bill back into his wallet, pulled out a crisp ten, which he inserted
successfully into the feeder. He pressed the touchscreen for the
full dollar amount, declined the option for a receipt, retrieved
his MetroCard from the dispenser.
Ducking the seemingly impatient looks from the people waiting
in line to purchase their passes, Frank strode left to the turnstile,
swiped his card, entered the walkway to the platform. An irate
man was denied access at the next turnstile due to a crimped card
as indicated by the MTA attendant who told the man that he had
to purchase a new card and call the Customer Service department
on Monday to find out how to get a refund for the damaged pass.
An f-bomb was dropped. Security was notified.
The uptown arrived to the platform. The closest entrance to board
the train had a steady flow of people exiting. Frank had to follow
the other passengers who wanted to board, and walked two cars
down. People moved quickly, but politely, towards the clear opening.
The train conductor poked his head out a window a few cars further
down, and shouted calmly, "Take your time. Let everyone off
the train. Take your time, please." Frank caught a glimpse
of the conductor positioning a whistle to his lips. A couple seconds
later, a high pitch sounded from the metropolitan bobby indicating
that the doors were about to slide shut.
The last person to board the car, Frank's back was against the
door. The energy-efficient fluorescent lights started to make
him feel nauseous. Claustrophobic, he tried to distract his attention.
He looked at the iconic signage posted next to the plexiglass
window opposite him, cautioning passengers not to lean on the
sliding doors. Someone stepped in front of him obstructing his
view. A crowd was beginning to form in preparation for the next
stop: Times Square/Grand Central Station. Frank hugged his duffel
bag with one arm as the underground train rattled onwards. Beginning
to feel dizzy, he wanted to find a seat. He tried to grab a pole
with his free hand to steady himself while he walked. The subway
car shook side-to-side. Frank misstepped inadvertently pushing
his way through the gathered people, almost tripping on an anonymous
foot on which he tromped. With his duffel bag shielding his body,
he wedged his way to the center of the car and sat down on the
"Totally unnecessary," complained a woman who was waiting
in the gaggle for Times Square. She had a hiker backpack hoisted
onto her shoulders. She was shoved aside accidentally when Frank's
duffel collided with her backpack as he stumbled past to take
"Is your ankle okay," asked her partner, who was similarly
"Never mind," she said angrily, not to her companion,
but to Frank.
Frank tried to pretend not hear the woman, but when he looked
at her from the corners of his eyes, he met her accusing hate-face.
Her partner, who was struggling with the weight of his backpack,
did not (could not) crook his neck to see at whom she had ID'ed.
Realizing his presumed negligence, Frank peered back at her and
pouted. She sneered, damning his eyes, then averted hers.
When Frank began to look away, he was astonished by an ambiguous
person sitting across the aisle. The person, dressed in a full-length
winter coat and ski hat, looked askance at him. The shoulders
of the winter coat shrugged. Frank heard an unsettled chuckle.
The person, staring at him, whimpered and hissed, then got distracted
by something at the other end of the car.
Frank wondered what the strange ambiguity meant: empathy for
his unintentional accident or disdain for his inconsiderate behavior.
He tried to rationalize the dilemma of consequence: the failed
attempt to navigate through a crowded subway car, on a roller
coaster of a ride, in the midst of a personal crisis--using his
duffel bag as a battering ram.
"What's the point," thought Frank, "of the ill-fated?"
The gaggle of people exited the train and scurried through the
various paths and corridors. The ambiguous person moved towards
and opened the end door to get to the adjacent car. Frank stood
up and readied himself for the next stop: Fiftieth and Broadway.
One of few, he waited at the doors. He held a vertical pole with
his right hand, while hugging his duffel bag with is left arm.
To prevent entanglement from a cluster of boarding passengers,
he prepared his body for a potential belly-bucking from the bravado
of bum rushers.
Having cleared the platform unscathed, Frank climbed the stairs.
Daylight. He took a deep breath and got his bearings. He walked
to Fifty-sixth Street. Frank found a neighborhood diner nearby.
Hungry, he figured he would call Brian from there, invite him
to lunch, or at least let him know that he was around the corner
from his apartment.
Frank decided, if he finished his lunch before his contact was
reciprocated, he would walk to Columbus Circle, sit in Central
Park for a while and read. He wondered if his favorite set of
benches by the pond were still encrusted with abstract expressionist
splotches of bird feces. If that was the case, he would count
this venture a loss, take the subway downtown to the bookstore
and enter his 'wilderness'; maybe see if there was a room at the
hostel. At worst, he would leave with some new books, go home
and forget that he ever met this total waste of time mentor.
At the diner, Frank was seated in a booth. He placed the call.