I used to commute from Hell’s Kitchen to Connecticut for work. Not so rough only an hour from Grand Central Station my destination in Stamford. But the unforeseen delays coming home were awful. It was not unusual to wait two hours or more for the ‘track to clear,’ or some other idiotic notion. Usually I’d just wear my iPod to avoid all of the complainers, and either read or draw other passengers. I enjoyed doing that, walking that fine line between sneaking peeks and staring that New Yorkers have refined, mastered.
But today, I’d left my iPod at the office, so when the train stopped, I whipped out my latest book, The Financial Lives of the Poets. Sometimes trying to read while traveling makes me a little pukish. And forget about sitting backwards. How do people do that? Not this guy, not on the subway either.
Within a couple of minutes of relative stillness, there was a whistle from the train. That was uncommon for Metro North. I wondered if I just hadn’t heard it before, maybe just didn’t pay attention.
“D’ja hear that whistle?” a black man asked. He was one seat away, facing me. His skin was caramel, and his eyes glittered.
“I did,” I nodded. “Rather unusual for this train?”
“Delays are not uncommon, but it’s getting ridiculous,” he said, looking out the window into the early evening dusk. “We’re in the middle of nowhere.”
“Probably a glitch with the train,” I said. “They’re old.”
“I’m Rodney,” he smiled. Colgate teeth. Big hand held out.
We shook. “Marvin.” I nodded. He was hot, but I was not single.
The door jerked open at the far end of our cabin. Two men with ski hats covering their faces stood there. They both held sawed-off shotguns. They looked like kids.
“Everybody down,” one shouted.
“What the f-” Rodney turned toward them.
I tackled him, ending up mashed against the same train seat, my heart racing. I was already sweating. In my mind, I kept repeating the phrase not me, not me, not me.
A deafening gun blast. Screams.
Rodney whispered, “I’m not gonna die.”