Manhattan Christmas Eve (i)

I don’t believe I slept more than 15 minutes at a time all night. I was the first to bed knowing I would be the first to get up in the morning. I left the blinds open on the window nearest the bed because I liked looking at rain-glazed Hillside Street under the amber streetlights. The one particular streetlight closest to the corner and thus my window seemed to grow brighter as I awoke from each nap. Bill loaned me a clock radio with a big digital clock face and narrow green numerals. When I woke because of the hard, steady rain hitting the porch roof outside the window, it read 2:04. I did not want to hear rain.

I got up when I saw 3:27.

An hour later Mattie and I were standing on the platform waiting for the 4:33 into the city. The rain was drizzle. The wind was mild but cold. We were exhilarated by anticipation. It was Christmas Eve and we were heading to Manhattan.

As far as we could see up and down the platform there were only six others waiting for the train. Our assumption that they were all regulars was confirmed when the train arrived. Each went to a specific unmarked spot on the platform and waited for the train to come to a complete stop. When it did, each person stepped directly through an open doorway and went quickly to a specific seat. They knew where the doors were; they knew where their seats were. We were the only two pausing and choosing. The others had chosen their seats long ago and had been sitting in them every morning, at 4:33, for a long time.

We were traveling light. Just one shopping bag with an umbrella, an orange, a tangerine and the poster. I was glad Sue offered the umbrella; even though I didn’t want to commit to carrying it, I was glad I had it. The citrus was her suggestion in case there was an opportunity to offer Al some fruit from Florida. But the bag was primarily to protect the poster, the one with 30+ signatures from Mattie’s sixth grade class and others on C-Hall who had signed under the big lettering across the top: GREETINGS FROM ST. AUGUSTINE, FLORIDA.

[an essay in 13 parts from Pablo Notes, 2001]

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