Subway Sisters Oct 16, 2015


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What's your name?
Subway Sisters

We were jumping up and down. Screeching like teenagers, though we are both over 50 years-old. I hugged her in celebration! I was about to get on the A train.

We only met less than half an hour ago. On the R train. The Bay Ridge Line. She was on 59th street and wanted to go to Jay Street. That's where I was going, so I knew she needed to get the R.

She's African American. If you know that stop, it's unusual to see an African American. Asian, yes. Puerto Rican, yes. Irish from the old days, yes .. once in awhile. But an African American woman stood out on 59th street in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

I watched her and admired her coat. It had a fur around the waste to the knees. Perfect. No, absolutely perfect for traveling these subways. Later I'll learn her husband bought it for her on clearance for only $30!

The train pulled in and we went our separate ways, even though we were both catching the R. She went in one door, I went in the other. Situations led both of us to the middle of the car, and we wound up sitting right next to each other.

I watched her again. She reminded me so much of myself. Her black bag was deep. First, the lotion came out to moisturize her hands. Then the lipstick for those dry lips. I saw she had a scarf in there, too! Yep, when it got cold later, she'd have something to wrap around her neck. I had to say something.

"I love your bag," I said.

Small talk ensued and we talked about her first husband, second husband and her 19 year old daughter. Being a mom, I focused in on the 19 year old. She wasn't working. She didn't have her life together. She was a loser, some in her family thought.

I didn't think she was a loser and my train partner didn't either. At 19 years old, there's no crime in still working things out. I said, if that was my daughter, I would give her some breathing room.

"That's what I say," she said. But her husband and all the adults around her say that my train mate should kick her daughters 's butt and get her with the program.

We talked about the children and how different brothers and sisters from the same family can be. We decided, between us, that some take longer to get adjusted than others.

This 19-year-old, by the way, was pretty smart. She knew she didn't want to have a family just yet, and mostly stayed to herself, in her room. I liked that about her, because, well, you can contemplate a lot in your own corner, I have found.

Jay Street came and we said our goodbyes. Imagine my surprise when we both wound up in front of the A train on a different platform five minutes later.

"What are you doing here?" I asked her, "Where are you going?" I jokingly asked her if she was going to the same funeral in Queens where I was going. My sister's family is laying to rest Marie Connolly, a matriarch of 57th street. She's remembered for her generosity to family and friends, and that's why I'm on this triple-train odyssey in the first place. I have to get to Marie Connolly's wake in Far Rockaway. And I do mean far.

"No, I'm taking the C train," she said. Then, as happens on train rides, I got into a conversation with another woman who was telling my train buddy where to get off on that C train to get to her destination. As we spoke, the woman with the fur on the bottom of her coat took a cell phone call.

So, it's me and the new woman. I will find out later her name is Robin. We were about to spend some 45 minutes together on the A train, where this time I was the minority. Robin is a retired e.m.t, and current nurse's assistant. I don't have space to list the details about her jobs, but that's okay because for the purpose of this story, the first woman got off her cell.

"She got a job!" my R train companion said. I said, "What?!?"

"My daughter, she got a job!" the woman smiled, ear to ear.

"What?!?" I said even louder, in disbelief. In spite of where I was -- a crowded train platform in a neighborhood I knew nothing about -- I found myself jumping up and down. I was kind of jubilant. We were both smiling, screeching and jumping. We both knew (her of course more deeply than me) that her 19 year old was going to be okay, but neither of us expected the arc of the story to complete during our short time together. I hugged this woman with the deep pocketbook and said congratulations. The A train was pulling in.

"That's my train! Good-bye and good luck!" I shouted as I was whisked onto the next train with Robin. Wow, Robin. I'll learn so much about her as we travel from Jay Street in Brooklyn to 90th Street in Queens. We'll share so much, that at one point, I'll tell her she should be president. Then when I get up to leave, she'll say: "Robin."

I'll turn back to her and say, "I'm sorry?" And she'll repeat herself as I walk toward the door.

"Robin. That's my name."

I'll say: "Oh, Robin. OK. I have a friend named Robin. I guess, now I have two." I smiled at her as I left the train.

Now I'm thinking about the first woman I met. The one on the R train with the 19-year-old who just got a job.

What was her name, I wonder. I wish I had taken the time to ask.

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