It smells like Port Authority when we get on the train at Jay Street-Borough Hall. We were waiting for 20 minutes after getting off the A to transfer to the F. A carefully-enunciated announcement warned we would have to get back on the A/C and switch trains at the dreaded Hoyt-Schemerhorn Station and an orange-vested MTA worker had been barking the same- “No F-train, no F-train- transfer to the G at Hoyt-Schmerhorn”- waving his arms and indicating we should move to the other side of the platform like a bunch of large-eyed, dumb cattle. No signs had been posted anywhere indicating the change of service (not that that’s so unusual) and people huff and scuffle.
Then, like a ghost, the F-train slips into the station, and all who’d waited on the platform roll their eyes and shake their heads. We get on and I sniff the air suspiciously. A woman (seated) with shaggy red hair and dirt streaked all over her face chatters about Chinese takeout to someone I can’t see. Had she been in a fire, I wonder? Why was her face covered in soot? M. and I find a seat nearby and I try not to stare. Just another New York night. But I can’t help it. She must’ve had the longest day.
Her eyes are made up. Despite the heat, she is in a black fur-lined coat, black pants, and black boots. The coat is open and she is wearing nothing underneath, revealing pale cleavage and tummy rolls. She is talking to no one (this much is now obvious).
Another woman, perpendicular to us with brown curls piled atop her head and black square-rim glasses, pulls on a thin sweater and apologizes to the man beside her for poking him with her sharp elbow.
“Cold?” he asks with a warm smile.
He says he is hot. She says she is envious. He touches the top of her arm, laughing lightly, saying he’s always too hot. She smiles upon the contact and I wonder whether she hasn’t flirted in years and whether she wants to sidle up to his overheatedness.
“Good night,” she says, getting off at Bergen Street. The man smiles to himself and gets off at the next stop.
The redhead in the fur coat remains on the train, ordering tuna salad from the banana at her ear. Then she puts the banana down and picks up a teddy bear in her lap (had this been her conversation partner all along?), and gives it tender kisses on the snout.