running late often works out for me, because if i hit just the right window of lateness, i can catch the trains i need without waiting. leaving earlier usually means waiting more. my friend ryan always knew the arrival times when we worked together; if we didn’t come in on the same train, he’d ask, “were you on the 6:52?” & i’d just blink sleepily at him & shrug. it would be easy to know the times, but my mind always becomes slippery on the train platform, & i think of anything but.
this morning, a girl, maybe seven, followed her mother onto the 6 train. they sat on the empty bench across from where i stood. matching black coats and white scarves, a copy of the free paper, AM New York, for each of them. the girl sat down at exactly the same time as her mother, watching out of the corner of her eye to know when to bend her knees. her mother wiggled side to side, sliding all the way back in her seat; the girl did the same. as her mother leaned forward like a basketball player on the bench – elbows to knees, feet planted wide – & the girl followed suit, i marveled at her mimicry. it was a study in routine, in movement. i thought about my students who have become talented isolation dancers & wondered how many of them undertook similar tasks as children. the mother gazed at the front page of the paper, cradling it in both palms & appraising what she saw, & the daughter followed her perfectly. together, they flicked open the front pages like T-Birds unsheathing combs in “Grease.” only when they moved to the second page did the girl falter, trying to fold over the flimsy first page without tearing it. she looked up & met my eyes, seeming embarrassed by her mistake. i forced my eyes away, not wanting to make her uncomfortable that she was being gaped at by some creepy lady on the train. we all made our transfers at the same stop, & i watched the two fold the newspapers vertically around their index fingers, put their free hands in their jacket pockets, & stride side by side out the doors onto the platform.