An old homeless man is screaming at me. He is as drunk as the day is long, and I wonder where he procured alcohol from. Did someone hand over some of their hard earned money knowing what he would do with it? Is it possible he was holding up one of those “Will Work For Food” signs that seemed so popular in the ’90s and suckered in some bystanders, thinking he would actually work for them or that he actually wanted food? And he’s yelling at me in some language I am not familiar with as I stand in line to get tickets for the next train to New Jersey. I don’t even want to go to New Jersey, the land of a thousand sewers and of the Holland Tunnel, or at least a part of that illustrious tunnel. I would really rather go home and go to sleep but I know she’s waiting for me in Secaucus, in the Radisson Hotel where they put mints on the pillow and the keys are really cards.
He finally moves on after I pay him no mind, that homeless man who is drunk on cheap wine, replaced by a woman who had been hidden by his bulk. She is his opposite, sporting a stylish tweed jacket with jewels for buttons and smelling of jasmine with a hint of honeysuckle. I only know those scents because my soap is made of the self-same, and I wonder if somehow the two of us, strangers until this moment, share the same soap. I also wonder what else we possibly share, and I am reminded that this is a small world after all, whether or not we’re on that creepy ride made so popular in the Magic Kingdom. We are six degrees separated from each other, but we probably share at least one Facebook friend. I don’t talk to her, though, as the sounds of the old man’s screams still echo in my ear.
And she’s wearing white pants, even though it’s after Labor Day, but they still suit her, fitting tightly to her body. I don’t stare too long, though, because I know she will notice. She seems like one of those women who notice those things, not like the millions who are oblivious to leering guys. I have a woman waiting for me, however, so I am careful not to watch too much. Instead I catch her eyes with mine, both of us rolling them in unison as I nod in the direction of the drunken transient who is now pestering someone on the far side of the station.
We stand in our positions in line as the board updates above our heads, and I can’t help but look further up at the elegant ceiling that appears like it’s four miles above the floor, outlined in black like the night outside. The attendant is now in front of me, a young man with a pierced nose and a hoop that is embedded in it. It looks painful and I wonder what it was like for him when he decided to have it done. Was it some now ex-girlfriend who talked him into it and now he regrets it, or was it a statement to his parents that he was his own man, even though he is still a boy even now?
The woman behind me in line smiles in my direction as I glance quickly back, and I realize she must have been staring at me while I was focused on the pierced boy. “One ticket for Secaucus,” I say, and my voice is hoarse, a remnant of the cold I thought I just got over. He prints out my ticket and we trade my hard-earned money for a piece of paper. I turn to go and I feel a tap on my shoulder. It is the well-dressed woman who used to stand behind the drunken man, and I am exceedingly glad that he is gone. I know someone is waiting for me at the end of my destination, but this woman is part of the journey, and I accept what fate has provided in the form of her number pressed into my hand.
And I get on the train.