Why hadn't they caught the last train? Well, this is the kind of mystery that the City offers you sometimes. What it means for me in that moment is that the next train is gonna be CROWDED.
The train comes, and yup, it's crowded. Dudes are pressed up to the glass like sea urchins, and when you look you can see hands scratching the windows like Kate Winslet in that scene in Titanic when she and Leo are gettin' it on in the back of that car. Man, that scene is hot. And so's this car, but in a totally different, much less awesome way.
The doors open, and like three people, max, squeeze out of the car, running a gauntlet of parked shopping baskets and street kids too insolent to notice that they're standing right in the way. But the door is right in front of me, so I can slither in past the people coming out, running that same gauntlet until I come to rest on the far side of the car near the opposite door.
Dude! What is that smell?
I look up, and my man is passed out right in front of me, big as life and twice as homeless, wearing the single dirtiest Hawaiian Shirt I have ever had the misfortune of seeing.
Wow! How did I not notice him when I came in? And now we're stuck together because while the car was crowded before, now it's ridiculous. An entire family has followed me into this car, and that's fine except that now I feel like a clown in one of those circus cars where fifty guys get out of a Volkswagen Beetle. But hey, it's Friday afternoon, and I only have to get from 72nd to 125th. I can deal, right?
Amazingly, my man gets off at 110th. He stands up like he wasn't just passed out for the last God-only-knows how long and shambles out the door, taking a wheeled basket of pure horror out the door with him. He's bent over at the waist and neck--I hear that's a sign of heroin addiction, and it's a rumor that I happen to believe--but he's moving under his own power, and his gait, for all of its ponderous shuffling, is glorious. I've probably never seen anybody move who was this wasted, but my man is moving under his own power and of his own volition, and I've got to admit that it's impressive. Inevitable and thunderous as the tide.
Anyway, my man gets out, and life gets better, even though the car's still hot, and for whatever reason, everyone in it takes that moment to push longwise from one end of the car to the other. There's nowhere to go in a crowded, moving subway car, but it's a migration, and I'm stuck in the middle of it.
Where are they all going? I'm telling you, these are the mysteries that animate the City.