What legally blind, eighty-five year old woman with ample money, who is in her right mind, would be on a deserted New York subway platform near midnight? There are those, my own grown children among them, who would argue that what is really questionable is the phrase “in her right mind”. But rarely in my full and interesting life have my detractors credited me with sanity.
It’s 11:30 pm. Most of the other white-haired old ladies in New York City – the ones who have any common sense left, anyway – are already at home, many tucked in or, at least, seated and comatose, soothed by TCM’s Robert Osborne or late night TV. They have been somehow securely stored for the night. But I’m not alone on the 103rd Street IRT platform, thank goodness. There’s a restless young couple on the bench two seats over and they’re dying to get home. “I will just do that again,” he keeps teasing her. “No you won’t,” she responds, giggling. And he grins with pleasure.
I don’t allow myself to wonder what he’s done. It’s none of my business.
Then he gets up, goes to the edge of the platform and crouches and teeters peering down the track, and when he sees only darkness he returns and in a few minutes they repeat their game.
I am doing my best to pretend I’m not there and I’m not listening. I’m humming to indicate I’m not thinking the obvious, which is sexual, of course, and therefore embarrassing. I would not have predicted that in my eighties sexual fantasies like fairy tales would occur, but they apparently survive long after more useful discussable memories fade.
I am glad to have these two non-threatening companions at this hour. The worst on this platform is to sit alone and hear footsteps but see no one. Near midnight that often happens. It’s not great either to have a sleeper on the bench as my sole companion. Last time there was one such well-dressed sleeper stretched out here. His fedora had fallen off and I thought to pick it up, but I feared he might wake and think I was stealing it. Then a middle-aged Hispanic couple came along and began to argue. “If you see something, say something,” the wife urged her husband. It was the subway’s line for intervention and safety. “It is not our business,” her husband declared. “It’s his hat!”
Why was I there? I’d had dinner with my children and grandchildren, and I’d stayed far too late! Why didn’t I take a taxi home? I’m too cheap. 2. I can’t see to pay properly. 3. I can’t read the meter. 4. I’m scared to get out when I can’t see on a dark street criss-crossed with scaffolding that’s been up for months.
So, I got on my train along with the young couple and as I rose to get off at 14th Street the young woman smiled and said, “Get home safely, Grandma!”
And, once again, I did.