Subterranean Homeless Blues
There was one open seat in the entire subway car and she went for it. It was actually a half-seat because passengers on both sides of the open space had expanded themselves like pigeons when keeping warm. She had a long ride ahead and wasn’t going to let that sort of behavior keep her butt from a horizontal surface.
I’d like to sit, she said in a voice loud enough to rise above the station’s roar and announcements so that both parties could hear. The man on the left tightened himself into a more vertical cocoon, and the woman on the right did likewise, adding an eyeroll and an audible harumph.
Moments after the train pulled out of the station she heard the door between cars to her left slide open. That particular sound signals to regular passengers that a car-to-car panhandler has entered, and that was the case this time.
Ladies and gentlemen my name is Thomas and I am sorry to bother you this afternoon. I am a veteran, USMC, presently I am homeless. I’m currently hungry and need some money to get something to eat. I accept anything, food, water, spare change, an apple, twenty-five cents, anything you can spare. God bless you and have a great day. He made his way across the car, repeating his words two more times and disappeared through the sliding doors before the train had reached 72nd Street.
She pulled out her book and began reading. The stops rolled by, the words rolled by. Her sister in Brooklyn was awaiting her, they were spending the weekend together; time to catch up.
Between Times Square and Franklin Avenue her reading was interrupted three more times.
First by the Asian woman who without word opened a fan of bootlegged DVDs by her face, then by the guitars and horns of a Mariachi Band that entered at Wall Street. At Atlantic Avenue a man whose name was Diego, seemingly shared the same fate and script as Thomas earlier — a veteran, homeless, needed change; though his choice of fruit was a banana. He worked her subway car and then sat down in an open seat at the far end, counting his takings. She was grateful the pole spinning crew, whose boombox “showtime” always forced her book to be shut, were working elsewhere today.
She arrived in her sister’s neighborhood and stopped at the corner bodega to pick up some beer and snacks. As she made her way to the front of the store with her items she recognized Diego…