“Stand clear of the closing doors, please.” The familiar recording echoed throughout the subway car. As if on cue, the muffled voice of the conductor followed as the train departed. “This is an A express. The next stop will be Jay Street/Borough Hall.” In the five years since the geography of home had expanded like a water balloon in the hands of a six year old, Nora had gotten used to the rituals that define New York City. Her first twenty-five years had been spent in a modestly-sized Midwestern town, so she reasoned, the next quarter decade could be in a small community that thinks of itself as a big city. The only problem is that in Brooklyn time passes in cat years. Every one feels like seven.
“Almost home,” she whispered to herself, closing her eyes. Her gloved hand clung to the pole. The day had been long and it already would be dark out when she arrived at her stop. She braced herself for the ten minute walk home through the falling snow. “Nora? Nora!” The imaginary bubble of her thoughts had been pierced by a familiar voice that she couldn’t place. Turning her head, she spotted its origin. A slender blond woman in black leggings, boots and a navy peacoat coat edged beyond other passengers by means of multiple “excuse me.”
“How are you? I heard you lost your job. . .” the woman began with feigned compassion. Nora’s mind flashed to when they first met three months ago. At a concert in the Lower East Side, her now-ex-boyfriend’s body had been wrapped behind the woman. The imprint of his face, her hair and her laughter had made Nora’s stomach turn upon visual impact. There are some things you can’t unsee.
“Oh, hi. . . I’m doing well. Just heading home,” began her side of a conversation she didn’t want to have. Ever. “You look well. How’s Leo?” “We are doing great! We are getting ready to go upstate for the holidays,” she enthused. We. Two letters that when put together side by side can connote heaven or hell depending on the user and recipient. “Sounds like fun.”
Hurry up, hurry up, hurry up, Nora willed the train forward. It worked.
“This is my stop, it was nice to see you.” She faux hugged Nora. As soon as the doors sealed the fate of the train’s departure, Nora noticed something by her feet. A new emerald-colorer knit scarf. Bending down to pick it up, she knew who the owner was. “Why doesn’t my intuition work for useful things,” she mused. One glance at the label confirmed her suspicion. Sew What by Miranda. It had been hand-made by her ex-boyfriend’s sister for her boutique on Smith Street.
Nora exited at her stop and ascended to the street. The snow was falling harder. She shivered in the night air and ignored a shabbily-dressed man shaking a cup and repeating, “Anyone spare a quarter?” Anxious for the warmth of home, she crossed against the traffic light. Her legs flew out from under her as her foot touched a hidden icy spot. The oncoming lights of a speeding car were now at eye-level. Stunned, time froze. Out of nowhere, the homeless man grabbed her arm. They slid to the respite of the sidewalk. “You gotta be careful, baby. It’s slick out.” He walked away.
“Wait, wait! Thank you.” Nora fumbled in her purse for some dollars, but found none. Her eye caught something else green. “Here—take this. It’s cold tonight.”
“God bless, baby.” Nora smiled as the light turned green.
About the author:
Lauren Jonik is a freelance writer and photographer based in Brooklyn, New York, USA. She currently studies writing at The New School in NYC. Her photography work can be viewed at https://twitter.com/laurenjonik http://shootlikeagirlphotography.com