A few minutes after I sat down on a crowded 3 train, the man next to me asked if I had enough room. I smiled at him and said yes. He could have been complaining that he in fact did not, but I didn’t think he was.
“Do you have enough room?” I asked back.
I began reading the Sunday Styles section of the weekend paper.
He leaned close in and said, “You gonna read all that- all those words?” He chuckled.
I chuckled back, “Yeah, I am.”
When I rearranged the paper five minutes later to get to the bottom half, he again, interrupted me, “You read it all! You finished all that. I’m just kiddin you- you know I’m just kiddin you, right?”
Each time he turned to me, the brim of his baseball hat actually touched my head. We we’re that close. But strangely, I didn’t mind any of it.
As we stopped at the first stop in downtown Manhattan, Wall Street, he asked, “Were you here that day?”
I knew what he was talking about. “In New York?” I asked.
“Yeah, were you here?”
“Yes, I was here.”
“Were you in that tower?”
“No, I wasn’t.”
“I was in Tower 7,” he told me. Again our heads were touching and I smelled a faint whiff of alcohol. He was a little cross-eyed and wearing black jeans and a black baseball cap and had the friendliest smile, and I liked the guy. “I ran! I ran so fast, I ran right out of there.”
“You still work there?”
No, he didn’t. He told me his new address, very nearby. I told him I worked right there now, right next door to the new tower. He said, “Yeah,” like he knew that or expected it. Now we were one stop from my work and I was actually disappointed.
“Sister. We’re all sisters and brothers you know?”
I nodded. I knew.
“I got out of there and got me a forty and ran right to the train, I got the last subway to 125th street. They said, ‘This is the last stop.’ and I said, Fine- this is far enough.”
We both laughed happily.
I looked around for a second and saw two women observing my new friend and me, starting to smile.
“This is my stop. Take care!”
“Take care, Sister.”