SECTION FIVE

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COLUMN FORTY-TWO, FEBRUARY 1, 1999
(Copyright 1999 Al Aronowitz)

NEW YORK AFTER MIDNIGHT

 

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some things stick in your mind, long after it's happened. some things never go away, no matter how much you try not to think about it. . . some things you just chalk up to experience, especially if you're young, and looking for adventure. . . .

when you're real young you think nothing could ever hurt you bad enough for you to die; when you're just a young stud, your mind is full of things like superman, and james bond movies, where the hero never loses, and when you start to think you're invincible. . . that you can handle anything. . . .

when you live in new york, like i did a long time back, and ride the early morning subway from times square towards brooklyn, you learn a lot. . .

i rode new york subways for a long time, on my way back from broadway, back to the navy base where i was stationed, at floyd bennett field, in brooklyn. . . .

standing on the platform in my navy blues at three o'clock in the morning is quite an eerie experience. . . at that time in the morning the platforms are mostly silent and dark; and whatever is out there that early in the morning, is something you don't want to think of. . . .

i used to wait for the BMT early morning, after a night of boozing on broadway; cruisin the streets in search of an early fuck; and bumping into strangers on the packed streets, like any drunken sailor does. . . funny thing, no one ever sleeps in new york. . . but it's mostly pimps and whores who come out late at night; and no one gives a shit if two guys are


being lonely
in new york is like
no where else on earth


beatin each other up. . . and a dead body could lay right outside radio city for a long time before anyone would stop to check it out. . . .

night life in new york is one crazy, mixed up, dope ridden, and sex ridden experience, and after a while you get so used to it that you just shrug it off. . . .

being lonely in new york is like no where else on earth. . . with all those people walkin around you would think it would be easy to get to know anyone. . . but besides the bright, glaring lights of the sex shops and dirty movie houses, and slop joints and greasy spoons, hardly anyone knows or cares about you. . .

yeah, we are all sleep walkin our way through life. . . this one night, though, while i was standin waiting for the train, i kept wonderin what would happen if someone suddenly came up to me with a gun, robbed me, and maybe shot me, left me laying there on the platform, while the gunman disappeared into the night. . .

you always hear echoes late at night. . . down below the streets, you can hear the train approaching, and see the lights coming towards you, until the train stops with a screech of brakes. . .

you wonder as the doors slide open who is gonna be inside. . . at two or three in the morning you usually find drunks only; or homeless people; or maybe someone waitin to rob you on the train. . .

a sailor stands out more than anyone. . . as i slide into my seat i look around. . . the door closes, and slowly the train picks up speed. . . across from me a guy is snoring away; a, few feet away another man with long braids and an ugly look on his face, black, looks at me, and scowls. . . . my heart jumps a bit, and i imagine the worst. . . but the guy looks away, and closes his eyes. . . at the next station two guys get on and i know trouble when i see it. . . they see me, look at each other, then look at me again. . . .

no one else on the train now, as it lurches away.

i look at my watch, and see it is three oclock. . . and i got another half hour to go. . . . the one guy, tall and dark, comes over towards me, sits down next tome, and says, "hi, sailor. . . how y doin?"

I nod my head.

"spare a couplebucks for me and my pal, there?" he says, "we're kinda low in charge."

I feel in my pocket, and pull out a dollar bill, and hand it over. the guy looks at it and spits:

"fuckindollar! . . that all you got?"

"that's all i got," i say.

he takes the buck and moves away from me, just when i thought he was gonna do somethin. . .

imagination takes over that late at night. . . i keep thinkin of that movie i saw, where the train came to a halt one night, and everyone got robbed. . . and another story where a guy who was gettin robbed suddenly pulled out his own gun, and pumped bullets into the guys who were trying to rob him. . . the new york papers were full of it. he was either a murderer, or a hero. . . wonder what happened to that guy now. . . after all this time. . . i remember one guy is still paralyzed from what he tried to do. . . strange things always happen at night. . . but hell, new york never really sleeps. . . even three in the morning is early in this town of heartbreak. . . after those two guys get off at the next stop i breathe a bit easier and try to fall asleep. . . . next stop a girl gets on. . . real tired lookin. . . painted up. . . she sits down next to me, then smiles, and says, "wanta have a good time sailor?"

I dont feel bad about her. . . she is just a whore out to make a few bucks. . . but i shake my head. . . i don't fuck around with strangers. . .

"give you a good time," she says warmly, and tries to feel my lap, to give me a hard on. . . she knows i won't resist. . . probably fucked plenty of sailors in her time. . .

I tell her no again, and she sighs, and stops trying. . . she moves away from me, and keeps staring off into space. . . i steal a glance at her. . . she doesn't look more than sixteen or eighteen and i feel sorry for her. probably carrying aids around, too, i think. . . next stop she gets off, and now its almost three thirty, and once again the train i am in is empty. . . and all the characters of the night have disappeared into the shadows where they came from. . . trains are funny things. . . if they could talk they'd tell you plenty. . . all i know is that i am almost at the end of the line, flatbush straight ahead. . . and a little green bus waitin to take me back to the base to sleep it off. . . . you might say nuthin happened to me. . . you might ask where is the drama or excitement. . . but new york subways are for sleepin'. . . think i read that somewhere. . . . and this is for real. . . no guarantees, buddy. . . and the next stop i get off the train, walk up the steps, out into the night air, and the stars. ##

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THE BLACKLISTED JOURNALIST IS A SERVICE MARK OF AL ARONOWITZ