Morning commute at the 36th Avenue Station Stop in Queens. 7:00 am. Humid as all hell. Waiting on an N Train. The N Train. Sinus headache and the smell of Windex and nicotine on my fingers. Can’t seem to get rid of it. Another day of cleaning some rich bastard’s apartment. Again. Is this it? Is this as far as I’m going to go in life? Beggars can’t be choosers though. It’s not such a bad gig after all. A few hours work and I’m out the door with cash enough to make it through the next day or two. Today’s job on the Upper West Side. Jeff Buckley’s “Grace” on my Walkman. “Hallelujah”. How in the hell’d he do it? I press my way into the mass of flesh that becomes one with the greasy metal interior of the train. A tantalizingly tender scent rising up from the nape of the neck of the girl standing next to me. Lovely Latina Lady. If only she were with me I’d have it made. “Dream Brother”. Queensboro Plaza. Train stalled out for what seems like an eternity. Sure hope she doesn’t get off the train. She’s the only thing that’s keeping me sane at the moment. I think I need to quit drinking. I know I need to quit drinking. Why can’t I quit drinking? Damn. She’s getting off. Salvation passes me by yet again. Free spot by the door. Quick. Take it before somebody else does. The subway shuffle is a pain in the ass I tell ya’. Why can’t I just stay in the same spot until I reach my stop? Why do I have to move all over the train as we reach each new station? Train’s moving. Good. There she is standing on the opposite side of the platform. Waiting for the 7 Train. Probably going to work in Woodside, or Sunnyside maybe. Who knows. It doesn’t matter I’ll never see her again. Even if we lived next door to one another. That’s how messed up this city is. And yet I’ll see other people visiting from across the other side of the country. I don’t get it. Descending under the East River. How many times I’ve done this over the course of the past couple of years is anyone’s guess. Not that anyone would guess, let alone care to. I wonder if it’s possible to age ten years in two years time? God, I sure hope I don’t end up living here for ten years. Cream-colored coffee running along the silver floorboards of the train. Dunkin’ Donuts & The Daily News. I’ll take Dunkin’ Donuts. Fuck The Daily News, you can have it. Nothing “Daily” about “The Daily News”. Same shit every day, they just rearrange the words and pictures. Don’t know how in the hell I got here. I think it had something to do with her but seeing as she’s gone I can’t verify it one way or the other. Whatever the case, it appears there’s no way out and save an act of Providence I may well remain here for the duration. Born in San Diego died in Queens. Speaking of death I think I’m dying of some sort of wasting disease. Tingling sensations all over my backside like a hundred thousand ants crawling all over me. Extreme fatigue. Diarrhea. Muscle cramps. Yep. Wasting disease. I’m sure of it. They’re closing down all the strip clubs in Times Square. Big deal. Strip clubs are a joke. Use your imagination for cryin’ out loud. It’s a hell of a lot cheaper and you don’t fear nearly as lousy about it when it’s over. Who the hell are all these people? All I ever wanted was to be somebody. I don’t care now, though. It’s hard enough being nobody in particular without all the pressure that goes along with being somebody. Just give me a regular stipend, send me off to some remote wilderness area with plenty of food and I’ll be fine. Oh and if you don’t mind send that Lovely Latina LadyLady out every now and then so I don’t go entirely insane. Wow, I didn’t even realize the train just stopped. It always stops under the East River. Guess I’ve gotten used to it. Maybe I already have. Maybe she and I are laying next to one another at this very moment, out in that remote wilderness they sent me to. She’s wearing a dark blue cotton t-shirt with short sleeves and frills and a drawstring neckline. It goes down to her thighs when she’s standing upright, but at this moment it’s riding up over her waist. We’re tight up against one another our legs entwined, she fast asleep and me there running my fingers through her dark brown tresses, tucking it gently behind her ear. Ah. New York was nothing but a nightmare after all. Suddenly I hear the heavy creak of steel wheels as though somebody were pulling the bed away from the wall. Ah, hell. Could you just give us five more minutes? That’s all I ask. Five more minutes? I bolt upright eyes wide open to find that New York wasn’t a nightmare after all. I’m still there, but she’s not. Something seems to have broken loose in my head and my temples begin to throb. An aneurysm perhaps? Excess mucus, maybe? Who knows. Nobody. Nobody knows. Nobody cares. Feels like I’ve been on the wrong side of life, trying in vain and dying to make my way across to the other side. Here we are at Lex. Lexington Avenue. Junction of the 4, 5, 6 and the R Train. Take the tunnel up to 59th for the Q. Train’s moving along now. No rhyme or reason to any of it. Don’t understand how the subway system works. How in the hell they coordinate it all. Thank God I’m not in charge, I’d really make a mess of things. Something large and yellow taking up the bulk of the periphery on my right. I take a glance. Holy shit. It’s Tom Brokaw. What the hell’s he doing here? For a moment I feel as though I may well have happened upon the man who has “The Answers”. “So Tom, what’s the inside scoop? Have you got any hot news tips? Is this all just one horrible joke? Is The Director going to say ‘Cut’ and relieve us of any further burden so that we can all just be ourselves for a change? Huh, Tom? What’dya' say? Tom? Tom?” Tome hasn’t got a clue the line of inquiry I’ve just posed him with. That’s the great and terrible thing about thought, you can be standing right next to somebody and they won’t have the foggiest idea just what in the world it is that’s going through your head. It’s a strange thing, thought. I haven’t much use for it, but I use it nonetheless, or it uses me rather. 5th Avenue. Tom gets off. Important interview with Arafat probably. Or the pope. Or the rich bastard whose apartment I’ll be cleaning in short order. Up next West 57th. An empty seat right next to me. To hell with it I’ll stand. Just close my eyes and ride it out. No sense in sitting down for sixty or so seconds only to stand again. I wonder if Tom Brokaw feels the same on the way to work as I feel on the way to work? I don’t think so. I wonder if he’d feel the same on his way to clean an apartment as I feel on my way to clean an apartment? Probably not. I wonder if I’d feel the same as way in preparing to deliver the evening news as Tom feels preparing to delivery the evening news? It’s highly unlikely. “Times Square, 42nd Street Stop, let ‘em off, let ‘em off!!!” Holy shit, how’d I miss 57th Street? Did the train even stop at 57th Street? Alright, alright, get off the train. Shuffle. Shuffle. Shuffle. Why in the world folks waiting for the train have to stand in front of the doors as it comes to a stop is beyond me. It’s as though we’re all unconscious, just brain dead stumbling from one place to the next reaching out blindly into the darkness with the hope that a few filthy buckskins might land in our grubby little hands. Yeah that’s nice, there you go, get on the train as people are trying to get off, brilliant. Nice guys finish last. Fuck the Dalai Lama. You’re not nice you’re just lazy. No, you’re not lazy, you’re just chicken shit. Just be an animal for Chris’ sake, do like all the rest. Care and concern for other human beings, you’ve gotta’ be kidding me? Who the hell do you think you are anyway? I don’t know, that’s the problem. What proof have I of my supposed brilliance? A box of journals? A few old recordings of off key guitar and vocals? We’re moving like cattle now up the ramp. Off to the slaughter. I trip a hoof on the third stair and stumble, all the cattle behind me moan. Shaking that brain clot loose I can feel the aneurysm coming closer, it’ll be here any second now. That’d be something. My last memory being the smell of bleach from the scoured out subway tunnel and nothing but an endless succession of hooves crushing me to death as my brain convulses in a pulsating explosion of purple plasma. I make it to the top of the stairs. Mexican woman selling churros, a massive mountain of them under a big blanket of plastic wrap. Two for a dollar. Wish I could just buy the whole damned tray and head back to Queens. Sit around in the apartment and eat churros all day. That’d be something. The thought of eating anything these days makes me sick to my stomach though. It seems whatever I eat makes me feel horrible. If there’s a hell it’s the subways in New York. I have to believe that. No more oppressive place I’ve ever been in the middle of summer or any other time of the year for that matter. Grab the rail. Hoist yourself up the stairs. Shuffle. Shuffle. Shuffle. As many times as I’ve done this I’ll bet it’s never been with the same people any of them. And there’s thousands. Grab the rail. Step down. Down. Down. To the 1,2,3 & 9 platform. Nothing coming on the 1,9 side. Nothing coming on the 2,3 side either. Just find a sliver of tile and wait against the wall. I wonder what Chris Whitley’s up to. “Vacant above the din…” Two rats, big ones scurrying along the tracks. Oblivious. I wonder what would be better, qualitatively speaking, this life I’m living now, or the life of one of those two rats scurrying along the tracks? There’s got to be something wrong upstairs to make one wonder such things. Do you think any of these people here are wondering or have ever wondered such things? No. Why would they? Why would anyone wonder such things? Mental illness. A likely cause. New York is filthy. Unless you’re rich. Then you’re filthy rich. Ha-ha. I made a joke. Did you hear that everybody? Apparently not. Then you take a cab everywhere and hire somebody to clean your apartment instead of doing it yourself. What is it I’m seeking? Love? Maybe. No not maybe. That is it. That’s all. Transcendence. The most potent form of transcendence I’ve ever felt. Suddenly a 1 train comes screeching to a halt in front of me. Where the hell’d that come from? “Stand clear of the closing doors!!!” Holy shit! Something wrong with me. Either time is moving faster, or I’m moving slower. Squeeze in between the closing doors of the train. Must be some combination of both. Empty car. Just a few folks scattered about the train. Sit down. Feels as though I’m still leaning against that wall. Old woman in an orange dress sitting in front of me. Bright red lipstick and heavy mascara. Staring at me. No, through me. Past me. At death. Probably doesn’t even see me. Still bugs me nonetheless. Close your eyes. How does anyone manage to live that long? The prospect of living to 30 makes me tired as all hell. Looks like the train is going to blow right past 51st Street. Guess they got the order to take the 2 track. Backed up trains maybe. There goes 59th Street. And 66th. Wow, we’re really flying. “So I wait for you…and I burn. Will I ever see your sweet return? Oh will I ever learn, lover, you should’ve come over. It’s not too late.” Hmn. Seems we’re stuck waiting for that serendipitous something or other that sneaks up on us and takes us entirely by surprise. No way to make it happen. It has a life of it’s own. She’ll either come over or she won’t. Don’t think there’s anything you can do to convince her otherwise. You know the deal. West 72nd Street. Time to get off. God I don’t feel like cleaning another fucking apartment. You can sit and moan about her as long as you like and it ain’t gonna’ make a bit of difference. Up the stairs and into the blaring light of day. It’s hotter than ever. As though the heat and humidity were on some sort of solar powered mission to put me out of my misery once and for all. It’s over on Riverside, today’s job. Alright. Stop into the deli on the corner. Pick up a pack of American Spirits and a Diet Dr. Pepper. Rip that cellophane off the top. Flip the lid. Tear away the silver wrapper. Pinch a filter and pull one out. To the tip of the lips, a flick of the lighter and it’s lit. Crack open The Doctor and take a swig. A long, slow drag of smoke and there she is on the other side of 72nd Street, my Lovely Latina Lady from way back in Queens. Holy shit. How in the hell’d she end up out here? You think it’s a sign, maybe? A divine dispensation from The Celestial Director, an intimation of sorts that I might have her hand in marriage, or at the very least a magical week or two together under the stars? No. Its just New York. Things like this happen all the time here. Nothing unusual about it in the least bit. That’s just The City’s way of fucking with you. Make you think it’s something special, when it’s just another random incident thumbing it’s nose at you in schizoid glee. Enough with the seeming significance of things. Just get on with the day. Get real for cryin’ out loud. We are headed the same way though. Maybe if I walk fast enough I’ll catch up to her. Nope. There he is waiting for her on the steps halfway down the block. They’re waving at one another. Shit. Shit. Shit. Of course. And he’s some rich bastard. I screw the cap back on my soda and hit play. Make my way toward Riverside. “Don’t fool yourself, she was heartache from the moment that you met her.” You can say that again, Jeff. “My heart is frozen still, as I try to find the will to forget her somehow, I think I’ve forgotten her now”. I hear ya’ loud and clear, brother. Loud and clear, I hear you. I’m trying to find the will myself this very minute.