Memories & Fists

Staring out the window of the shuttle bus, no idea where I was, or if I was headed in the right direction. Brought along a book but it sat unopened in my lap; was too fascinated with unknown streets, storefronts, signs.

Have been wandering New York for 18 years and there are still so many neighborhoods I’ve never seen. It’s humbling.

The jaunt from Greenpoint record store to Cobble Hill barbecue was supposed to be a straight shot on the infamous G train. Noted because:
1) It is the only train in the MTA system which never crosses into Manhattan and
2) It is rumored to be remarkably unreliable

Sure enough, when I’d reached the Nassau Street subway stop, a sign said “No G Trains at This Station—Take Shuttle Bus.” Which led me to believe, if I stood there, a shuttle bus would come by. This was an incorrect assumption. Consecutive discussions with a frustrated stranger and a passing friend (I am remarkably well-connected in the greater NYC area) convinced me to try a more prominent station a few blocks away. Sure enough, I found more specific signage there, and soon was boarding the shuttle bus.

I assumed it would make all of the G train’s stops, leaving me exactly where I needed to be, at Bergen and Smith streets. This was another incorrect assumption. “Last stop,” the bus driver called out at some random Brooklyn location. Out on the sidewalk again, I had no idea where I was, but a definite perception that I’d been there before. We’d just passed the Union Pool bar, where many years back, a long, entertaining, but ultimately quite troubling online date had come to its sad conclusion. And that diner is familiar too…. Oh, right, this is near where we did some interior scenes on my buddy’s short film. I entered the G station at the corner and hoped for the best.

Minded my own business on the train, flipping through liner notes from my record-store yield. A young guy—baseball cap, white t-shirt, long dark shorts—sat next to me. “Which stop has the A and C train?” he asked. “I need to get into Manhattan.”

It was a geographic and public transportation helplessness that I was not accustomed to, and I did not like the sensation. “I… I don’t know,” I stammered. “I’m, uh, new on this train.” Didn’t feel sufficient. I was letting the lad down. “The F stops at Bergen Street, I know that,” I said, sharing the only piece of information I had.

“No, I need the A and C,” he replied.

“Oh, OK, I’ll keep an eye out,” I said a little too eagerly, fighting off a neutered feeling.

And then I saw it—the station sign for Hoyt-Schermerhorn—and my sense memory kicked in once more. Those interminable trips on the C train, feeling like I was headed to the executioner, in the waning days of my brief relationship with Bekka. That absolutely miserable Hoyt-Schermerhorn station. Uggh, unhappy days indeed. Ooh, ooh, C train, C train!

“Here! The C train definitely stops here, the C train, here,” I blurted, again a bit too eagerly.

“Thanks,” said the young man, rising to depart. But before leaving the train car, he turned and held a fist in front of me. I had to react quickly. I made a fist as well, and tapped mine against his. And he was gone.

I exhaled and took in the gravity of the moment. A real live fist bump. Oh, sure, I bump fists all the time, with all sorts of friends, but there’s usually a hint of irony behind it. Not this time. No, sir. This was 100% legit. And it felt good. Real good. As the G train lurched on to God knows where.

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