COLUMN FORTY-TWO, FEBRUARY 1, 1999
(Copyright © 1999 Al Aronowitz)
NEW YORK AFTER MIDNIGHT
some things stick in your mind, long after it's happened. some things never go away, no matter how much you try not to think about it. . . some things you just chalk up to experience, especially if you're young, and looking for adventure. . . .
when you're real young you think nothing could ever hurt you bad enough for you to die; when you're just a young stud, your mind is full of things like superman, and james bond movies, where the hero never loses, and when you start to think you're invincible. . . that you can handle anything. . . .
when you live in new york, like i did a long time back, and ride the early morning subway from times square towards brooklyn, you learn a lot. . .
i rode new york subways for a long time, on my way back from broadway, back to the navy base where i was stationed, at floyd bennett field, in brooklyn. . . .
standing on the platform in my navy blues at three o'clock in the morning is quite an eerie experience. . . at that time in the morning the platforms are mostly silent and dark; and whatever is out there that early in the morning, is something you don't want to think of. . . .
i used to wait for the BMT early morning, after a night of boozing on broadway; cruisin the streets in search of an early fuck; and bumping into strangers on the packed streets, like any drunken sailor does. . . funny thing, no one ever sleeps in new york. . . but it's mostly pimps and whores who come out late at night; and no one gives a shit if two guys are
in new york is like
no where else on earth
beatin each other up. . . and a dead body could lay right outside radio city for a long time before anyone would stop to check it out. . . .
night life in new york is one crazy, mixed up, dope ridden, and sex ridden experience, and after a while you get so used to it that you just shrug it off. . . .
being lonely in new york is like no where else on earth. . . with all those people walkin around you would think it would be easy to get to know anyone. . . but besides the bright, glaring lights of the sex shops and dirty movie houses, and slop joints and greasy spoons, hardly anyone knows or cares about you. . .
yeah, we are all sleep walkin our way through life. . . this one night, though, while i was standin waiting for the train, i kept wonderin what would happen if someone suddenly came up to me with a gun, robbed me, and maybe shot me, left me laying there on the platform, while the gunman disappeared into the night. . .
you always hear echoes late at night. . . down below the streets, you can hear the train approaching, and see the lights coming towards you, until the train stops with a screech of brakes. . .
you wonder as the doors slide open who is gonna be inside. . . at two or three in the morning you usually find drunks only; or homeless people; or maybe someone waitin to rob you on the train. . .
a sailor stands out more than anyone. . . as i slide into my seat i look around. . . the door closes, and slowly the train picks up speed. . . across from me a guy is snoring away; a, few feet away another man with long braids and an ugly look on his face, black, looks at me, and scowls. . . . my heart jumps a bit, and i imagine the worst. . . but the guy looks away, and closes his eyes. . . at the next station two guys get on and i know trouble when i see it. . . they see me, look at each other, then look at me again. . . .
no one else on the train now, as it lurches away.
i look at my watch, and see it is three oclock. . . and i got another half hour to go. . . . the one guy, tall and dark, comes over towards me, sits down next tome, and says, "hi, sailor. . . how y doin?"
I nod my head.
"spare a couplebucks for me and my pal, there?" he says, "we're kinda low in charge."
I feel in my pocket, and pull out a dollar bill, and hand it over. the guy looks at it and spits:
"fuckindollar! . . that all you got?"
"that's all i got," i say.
he takes the buck and moves away from me, just when i thought he was gonna do somethin. . .
imagination takes over that late at night. . . i keep thinkin of that movie i saw, where the train came to a halt one night, and everyone got robbed. . . and another story where a guy who was gettin robbed suddenly pulled out his own gun, and pumped bullets into the guys who were trying to rob him. . . the new york papers were full of it. he was either a murderer, or a hero. . . wonder what happened to that guy now. . . after all this time. . . i remember one guy is still paralyzed from what he tried to do. . . strange things always happen at night. . . but hell, new york never really sleeps. . . even three in the morning is early in this town of heartbreak. . . after those two guys get off at the next stop i breathe a bit easier and try to fall asleep. . . . next stop a girl gets on. . . real tired lookin. . . painted up. . . she sits down next to me, then smiles, and says, "wanta have a good time sailor?"
I dont feel bad about her. . . she is just a whore out to make a few bucks. . . but i shake my head. . . i don't fuck around with strangers. . .
"give you a good time," she says warmly, and tries to feel my lap, to give me a hard on. . . she knows i won't resist. . . probably fucked plenty of sailors in her time. . .
I tell her no again, and she sighs, and stops trying. . . she moves away from me, and keeps staring off into space. . . i steal a glance at her. . . she doesn't look more than sixteen or eighteen and i feel sorry for her. probably carrying aids around, too, i think. . . next stop she gets off, and now its almost three thirty, and once again the train i am in is empty. . . and all the characters of the night have disappeared into the shadows where they came from. . . trains are funny things. . . if they could talk they'd tell you plenty. . . all i know is that i am almost at the end of the line, flatbush straight ahead. . . and a little green bus waitin to take me back to the base to sleep it off. . . . you might say nuthin happened to me. . . you might ask where is the drama or excitement. . . but new york subways are for sleepin'. . . think i read that somewhere. . . . and this is for real. . . no guarantees, buddy. . . and the next stop i get off the train, walk up the steps, out into the night air, and the stars. ##
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