Thursday, December 07, 2006


The time-space of the counterworld

The human world gets smaller at night. Or the night limits the relationships out of which a society can get constituted. New York becomes more understandable – a small town that exists in the middle of a sleeping city. The trains run on a schedule. Since it is too cold to ride my bike (I deign), every working night I get on the A train at 11:29. I ride in the south end of the second car next to the black man with over-sized glasses – leftovers from the 80s – who listens to music on non-I-pod in the ear speakers while he assumes a dozing position. Things are copasetic, normally, until we get to 125th street at which point the Hispanic, heavymetal listening 86th street doorman who recently moved to the Bronx from New Jersey climbs into the south end of the second car too (the south end of the second car opens up to the stairs at the 86th street stop hence our choices of postionality). We exchange greetings and make small talks, or fall asleep, in which case we sometimes miss our stop until one of us wakes up. He told me his name one time, but that was a long time ago. Mostly we talk about how unenthused we are to be going to work. He usually says he’s not "feeling it" tonight. I usually nod along, not because I’m feeling the same but because it seems like the empathetic thing to do.

We get off at our stop and go upstairs to say hi to Nogi, the Egyptian who sells coffee all night at the corner of 86th Street and Central Park West. The doorman goes to his door, and I talk to Nogi while I wait for my bus. Nogi notices if I don’t show up for a few days (which is often as 75 cents per day for coffee adds up after a while). I told him about my Thanksgiving and he told me about his. He works seven nights a week, in his coffee stand, because the Moroccan who had just started working for him two nights a week, quit after one of their customers got robbed at knife point. Nogi smiles anyway and says the weather is changing and tells me to “have a good night my friend.”

I’m smiling when I get on the M86, giving an unacknowledged nod to the bus driver, who always drives the 11:58 bus. When the bus stops for the light at 5th Avenue, he opens the door for me without asking. I tell him thank you and wish him a good night.

After I change into my Dickies, I swipe a New York Times and sit down to read about the world that (for now) I don’t miss at all. Maybe this is what it means to be in the world but not of it! By organizing my time and space in opposition to the regular, I’m able to be part of a little community where people have names and aspirations in the center of the world.


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