THE RIDER

In the beginning, there was the word.The germ. And the germ was the seed. It was also traveling around the city, infecting its way through time and space. I’ve been under it’s influence for about six weeks now, and it show’s no signs of letting up on me. I’m sick ... and I’m sick of being sick. I’ve spent every spare moment reading about it, but I can’t read any more so I’m going to speak out about it.

The difference between I and it, is defined by the psycho-analysts as ego and id. The super-ego I suppose would follow as being the phenomenon. This. The ride. On the subway. The A train to far Rockaway. I’m always on it, downtown bound, in the late morning. I used to read the paper during the ride, but lately I’ve taken to postponing that disposal pleasure till the evening ride uptown. By the evening I am definitely written out.

A man with a World Alliance patch on his jacket sits across from me. He is very well put together. Nice Docs on his feet. Jeans, hair neatly combed to conceal his baldness, gloves nattily tucked into the side pocket of his light pea-colored down jacket. I don’t really know what else to say about him. He’s just there.

Now I smell alcohol. A poor-looking distressed dark brown woman is spitting into a hanky. She’s drinking something from a paper cup. I don’t know if I have time to describe her further. I also find it difficult to even look in her direction. She is sitting about three feet away from me. The pained expression on her face is so prevalent that even with her eyes closed, it is almost palpable. I have a knot of phlegm come up but just swallow. I’m sure we have other things in common. Her distress is more on the surface. I keep mine hidden, and when it does surface, I swallow, reflexively, not wanting to be identified with ...

Local stops only, says the conductor. This is unusual and the dark woman utters something unintelligible to me, and looks out the window. We’re on the wrong side of the tracks now. She chuckles ... or is it a moan? I see a Davy Crocket coonskin cap at the front of the train. 42nd Street and she staggers off. The man with the patch on his jacket is wringing his hands, albeit, gently.

OK?

So this morning, my first contact (not counting a slight quarrel with my girlfriend) was a conversation with Rodrigo. After starting my car and letting it idle for a while (winter precaution) I stumbled back into the street through the slush and salt, and I spotted Rod, with whom I’ve been wanting to further my relationship past tenant/super.

How ya doin? I said.

Good, good, he replies. I just got back from Columbia on Sunday.

Oh really, I say. How was the weather, pretty warm?

Yeah, it’s always warm there.

I read that down further South, in Chile say, that it can get chilly.

Yes, they have seasons down there, and in Argentina. I’m now noticing something out of the ordinary with him, a certain openness not usually there.

Yeah, I went to bury my father, he said.

Oh, how old was he? I asked, still in a conversational tone.

He was 74 ... too many complications you know.

Yeah, my Dad is only 66, and I’m watching the deterioration. His heart and lungs. He used to be ... and here I make a strong determined gesture with my upper body accompanied by a set jaw ... and now it’s not the same. I think that Rod is on the verge of tears. Do you have any brothers or sisters?

Just a sister, he says, we moved my Mother to a new house. Not so many memories, He is definitely on the verge of tears, but under control, and we sold everything off.

How is your Mother? I asked.

Well ... she’s ok, he replies. At this point, I reach out and touch his arm. He’s wearing

a down jacket and just for a moment I think he is going to embrace me, and me him. I’m sorry.

He looks me in the eye, thanks, he says and I turn and start down the street to the subway station.

I always wonder how I can stand the passage of time in transit. I just want to be in the studio writing, but it takes 30 to 40 minutes to get there. This particular morning, excepting my encounter with Rod, is no different. When I get to the subway station, the train pulls out while I'm still buying my tokens. I run through the turnstile in futility. Shit. I walk downstairs, go to my usual place at the very rear of the platform and roll a cigarette. Then I light it and gaze back down the tunnel. Shit. Before the smoke is finished, the train arrives. I get in and sit in my usual place next to the door. The train is unheated and the floor has just been mopped and is still wet. Cold and damp. Shit. I open my book and plunge back in to P. K. Dick's "The World Jones Made", and like always with his books, I am totally drawn into his world. His world in this case, is set amidst a conflict between a ubiquitous police entity and mutant life forms. His main character starts off as a side show freak/fortune-teller at a carnival, but within 2 chapters becomes some sort of ordained priest and has been arrested. At 59th Street, the B train is waiting across the platform. I dash across the platform and jump in, taking a seat by the door. The heat is coming out of the vent under the seat and the floor is dry. I warm myself as the door closes. I resume reading. There are 2 or 3 nondescript people on the train but by 34th Street, everyone but me gets off.

I look up and see that the car is now empty, and I can't resist the urge to talk to the empty car. "Hey!" I yell. "Hey, there's no-one here. Hey! There's no-one on the train." I look around to make sure no-one can see my lips moving, and no-one can. "Hey! This train is empty!" It stops at 14th Street and no-one gets on. "Hey! This train is empty!. There's no-one on the train." For a moment, I fancy that I am the conductor's voice, "Hey! There's no-one here! Hey! Hey! Hey!" At West 4th no-one gets on. We proceed. I look down the empty car and fancy the spirits or ghosts of a full car (which at rush hour it will be) and marvel. "Hey! Where are you?!" The train pulls into Broadway Lafayette Station and I'm practically there. Then I'm here. Writing.

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  NYC Subway
circa 1994

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