The G train, which connects Brooklyn and Queens, shuttles people catty-corner through mid-Brooklyn as passengers enjoy a relatively nice ride. It does not smell, like the A train, and, miraculously, the walls of the stations are not covered in filth (for New York standards).
I am exercising my right to observe others, and before me a young couple stands by a center pole. A young, blond man with a Slavic accent and a smartly-dressed Asian girl are speaking to each other in intense conversation. They are having, what Sarah Palin has recently coined, a “squirmish.”
“No baby I am going to work too,” says the man. He looks at her as he talks to her, and she shakes her head and says something inaudible. He reciprocates the movement with the same urgency, but less emotion.
This is whole scene, as faraway and contextless as it is, intrigues me. Years ago, my grandmother – as older folks are wont to do – would retell how things were back when she was younger. This was when ethnic whites were a very real and present thing, at least for the country (by now it’s pretty much a thing only in New York). Italians married Italians, Irish married Irish, and so on and so forth. You stayed within your family background, and I never really understood the sentiment other than a very strict cleaving to preserving family identity.
Nowadays, that sentiment is pretty much gone (although, I do come from a family that has – by circumstance or not – preserved this thread: out of six women, my sister was the only person to marry someone not Italian). The world grows complex each day, and as a whole, we do not look to the past for the same direction that we used to. This is freeing, because we are not beholden to the traditions that (potentially) imprison us. Yet as society evolves, it seems we go through some growing pains. I wonder how many miscommunications are accounted for by cultural differences, or the unwitting adherence to dialogues that aren’t shared by all.
By now, the volley has gotten lighter, and the man leans over the pole and gives the woman a kiss. For a moment she is quelled.
“What are you going to do tomorrow?” he asks.
The woman says something else inaudible. Both of them hold quiet looks on each other.
“I am trying to change the subject,” he says.
I look out the window. I haven’t been able to find someone that can connect with on a meaningful level. The best and most natural place to meet people, at least for me, is in the day-to-day, which, in the city, is of a forced anonymity.
A man gets up from his seat and the couple sits down. I can better see her face, and she is pouting. The man has started asking her about hash browns. I find this very cute.
The train continues on its way and their conversation has reached a standstill. In the dim light they quietly observe the rest of the passengers. Everyone is reading the paper or listening to music.
She is wearing make up to cover up acne, and he just looks tired. This is not a movie scene. As I get up to leave, I can see she is wearing blue-eyed contact lens.