The turnstiles of the New York City Subway System are portals to a wonderland of adventure. What I will attempt to do in these chronicles is transcribe the bizarre occurrences that I participate in and witness on a daily basis. The # 5 train is to me what the Inferno was to Dante. If nothing, I hope these accounts will at least paint a thought-provoking picture of what goes down in the underground.
Exhausted after two straight nights of house music in New York, I couldn’t help but doze off a little on the train. Someone tapping on my knee awakened me. I figured they probably wanted to sit next to me so I moved over a little before looking up.
And there she was. Homegirl.
There are a few characters that are renowned on the train. Annoying Amos, Homegirl, the Jamaican preacher on the platform of 125th street, the kids selling candy “not fo’ no basketball team, but so I can stay outta da streets.” (I’ve always wanted to correct the grammar on these kids, but alas I’ve acquiesced to the fact that my calling is elsewhere.
I hope to acquaint you all with these characters and more in the coming months but for now, let me describe Homegirl.
This woman is renowned for asking people of color for a helping hand, but has a way about her that can be unsettling. The last time she asked me for money, a three-year-old girl was sitting to my right with her mother. On that day the train was crowded. Anyway, Homegirl proceeded to utter profanities as she described her plight to me. I promptly stopped her and told her that I was offended by her use of vulgarity and pointed to the child to my left. I pulled out my wallet and gave her two dollars and she took two steps to my right and proceeded to make the same profanity-laced plea to another brother on the train.
Today I knew better.
I was a little offended that she woke me up and had but one dollar on my person. She began to recount her story, oblivious to the fact that I was a return, albeit reluctant, customer in this bizarro-world system of coerced charity.
Palm extended she asked, “Could you spare some change?”
Knowing full well that I didn’t have any change, I patted my pockets in a weird Pavlovian response mechanism to hoboes kind-of-way and said, “I’m sorry”
“YOU AINT SORRY!” she stated emphatically, and stormed into the next car.
Suffice it to say, I was exposed. I think there's a moral to this story, but I'll leave it to you to figure it out.
So much for catching a nap on the train ride back home.