After work I get into the subway station hoping to catch a quick N train back.
It rarely comes first on 23rd street.
The R comes in waves of two or three, beating my boat by mile.
But I take it when I can because I know a man who plays an instrument one station down.
He stays true to his love and plays almost every night.
He and his musical keys sit in perfect rhythm undisturbed by the commotion of commuters. Sometimes it’s under the stairs. Sometimes it’s out in the open. No matter what, he’s dead centered. His smile shines white behind his happy dark face. His sticks dance cool across the platform, singing his song, hummin’ if he has to.
He plays what looks like a xylophone but sounds like a beach.
It’s a breeze that your skin can’t feel. It doesn’t slide up your leg. It doesn’t swim under your shirt. It’s in your ears and its in your head.
My feet can’t help that they tap. It’s instinct.
I sit in NYC’s underground cocktail of people and passenger trains with sand between my ears and a tune on my toes.
My N still stays away.
I stare relentlessly uptown watching for lights listening for rumbles. I can tell when it’s the Q by the way the shadows run from the tiles at the far end of the tunnel. They scurry in flashes and hide in anticipation. It’s loud as hell.
My Caribbean getaway drowns in the rivers pouring from the cars. They fill walk ways, dance the yellow lines, dodge the hidden grandmas all while making sure not to fall off the pace of their plans. The tide subsides. The cars refill. The platform looks bare.
Washed of commuters, sending old ones on their way.
I’m reminded of music as my ears taste rum.
Vibrations, feelings, movements. Vibrations.
The next train skates down in the dark. Shifting the shingles of light that sleep on the dirty brick walls. The sparkles of red and glimmers of gold that tumble down the tube plant a seed of hope. Its an N and I know it before it makes the turn.
It explodes into view with a humid wind and a chorus of chaos. The proud red N glows overhead as it whizzes by. Iron wheels clap against the iron rails and soon the beast stops with a sigh. Its cool air conditioned car invites me into its pale walls and grey blue seats. I sit platform side because I know the Manhattan bridge offers views that never dim or fade. The doosr ding closed and for a moment I can still hear the muffled sound of music echoing from my friend.
We start our Brooklyn roll and I bid farewell to union station.