Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Coming and going

Always keep to the right; move quickly. When it's as cold as it has been these last few days, stow your glasses in your pocket for the walk or your breath will scarf up and over them until they're useless. Your face should be empty. You've timed the lights by now, so you'll barely register the streets. Visitors who come to marvel at the construction or to understand the destruction at Ground Zero can be unpredictable; be ready to negotiate them. Traffic will run against you, but you belong here, too; make them make way if you have to. Don't forget to notice the moon if it's there before you turn for the stairs down: today just a slight curve of white, the last sip of milk that lingers in the bottom of a glass. If you're lucky, a low plane will bank into the arriving day and light up.

You'll need your hat until you're on the PATH train. The cold runs deeper than you do, so respect it. Always take the same stairs because neatness counts. Pick the second car — it opens at your stop in the right spot. Remark favorably upon the wisdom of standing aside and letting the passengers off first. In the moment between the train's coming and going, remember how The Boy looked when he stepped out of his room this morning, blinking against the one light you were eating your cereal by. Remember how he always pauses, muzzy from sleep, before he instincts his way into the bathroom to relieve himself. And then how you look in at Q heavily asleep amid a riot of blankets and stuffed animals. And how you bend for a hug from The Boy before sending him back to bed (though you know he probably won't return to sleep). Before the train doors close, recall the quiet you left the house in. Respect it; it is older than everything.

The train lurches left just out of the station, so hold on as the doors close, preferably somewhere high where fewer strangers touch. Be inside yourself. Think about what you have to do today, but not too much.

At your stop, don't run; you won't miss your connection. Resist buying bad muffins and bad coffee. Don't resist wondering where all these people go. They haven't put out new books in the terminal bookstore since forever, so don't bother. Stay up by the platform and think of things; write down the remotely interesting thoughts that bother showing up. When the train lumbers in, head to the rear for a seat and you'll get one. You won't remember how the ride went.

If you step off the last train coming and it's snowing like it is today, close your eyes now and again to let the flakes suggest themselves to your face. Lean a bit when you stride up the steeper paths to your office. Pay attention to your toes. Go in the back way and take the stairs; there will undoubtedly be candy or cookies and you'll likely want an excuse.

Move your work a day forward.

On your way out to the train, pocket some of the ubiquitous candy for Q and The Boy and your wife — only the good stuff. You'll accelerate down the stairs because you will think you'll be late, but you won't be. Sit close to the front door in case you can catch the express if it's late. If it's not, you'll be on the local, which is fine, too. Either way you can't catch the evening going, no matter how many times you try. You will step off the local in the dark.

Walk across the platform to the PATH train waiting or coming. Stand away from the door, but you'll still need your hat against the wind. You can have a seat at the third stop where the train breathes out most of its riders, but standing will feel better. Off the last train going, the traffic will again run against you at World Trade, so keep moving. Keep your face blank. (Smile without thinking, though, if you re-listen to a message from your wife and the kids.) Maneuver the dripping ceiling. Walk up the moving escalator.

It's okay to wonder if the tourists at Ground Zero are the same from this morning; many will be taking pictures of something mysterious. If you need milk or apples, you might be able to fit in a stop at the Amish market. If not, go home by 7 World Trade and the big red balloon sculpture; wonder how they illuminate the marbled benches from below. Anticipate the wind as you near the river; you'll probably need to look away. Appreciate that you can ascertain a few stars even in this city, but check that those aren't the lights of jets on approach to La Guardia (they're both wonders, but the second one is less so, for some reason, by now).

Once inside your building, there will be mostly meaningless mail. You will share the elevator with a dog that's just been walked. The hall will suggest someone else's dinner; the dish will be unknown and unknowable. Hesitate, just for a moment, at your door to listen for the laughs that you will walk into.

Go home. Come home. Be home.

No comments: