Saturday, July 11, 2009

Part V: This Morning Was Uneventful

The weather is always described as being unseasonably warm, as if that early in September is expected to already be tinged by winter. It's Autumn in New York and the air feels clean and sharp, biting everything playfully like a lover waking you up in the morning through some sensual form of torture. It's agonizingly beautiful and makes one's skin feel new as if freshly revealed out from under layers of dead earth and ash. It's not unseasonably warm, but just the type of weather one sees in New York more often than they care to recognize. It's more fun to complain about the freezing axe of winter or the humid club of summer than it is to tout the days that rock the cradle of the five boroughs and send the crying babies into a sense of well-being. It is not unseasonably warm, but the type of weather that makes life worth living.

I don't remember much about that early morning, mostly because I'd spent it like any other weekday morning for the past 8 months, getting ready for my temporary office job. Morning routines are that type of thing that is both memorized in strict detail and instantly forgotten once it comes to end. The muscle memory remembers the motions of teeth-brushing and shirt-buttoning, but the brain never records anything. When asked what one has done in the morning, one generally answers simply, "I got ready for work." This particular morning, something has happened to jar this pattern slightly for I remember doing everything five minutes later than it would normally have needed to be done to allow me to be at work on time.

At this time, in my early 20's, I was fond of setting my morning alarm at 6:40. I don't remember why now, but I had an elaborate reasoning for this odd designate. Everything was planned out from this asymmetrical hour so that I would hit other specifically designated activities at specifically designated times. I allotted the perfect amounts of time for showering, dressing, and walking to the Astoria Blvd. Station so that I would be walking to the North platform end in time to enter the last train car on the same train, and sit with the same people every morning. For all of its vibrancy and electricity, New York is still a towering industrialized mess of people who do the same exact things in the same exact way every single day for their entire lives.

I have already decided that stopping for coffee will now not happen, as its allotment of time must be sacrificed for the greater good of the overall day's agenda. I also realize that a woman I admire every morning, who enters the N line at 30th ST, will now not be not noticing my subtle passive stares from across the car, as she will be on an earlier train. I know she works in high-finance, too, as is evidenced by her smart black pencil skirts, white blouses, and her exiting the train at Rector St. Station, also my stop. I often follow a few feet behind her up the station stairs to afford myself views of her calves.

She does not enter at 30th St. Station this morning, as expected, so now I search for other women to fantasize about. Some people read the Times, I imagine myself having sex with any number of secretaries, personal assistants, fashion designers, sales clerks, real estate agents, drama majors, and art students who enter and exit along the NRW's long, weaving route. These are the games lonely people play.

There is nothing eventful about any of this at all. There is nothing that separates this morning from any other morning. Nothing happens that makes this particular morning subway commute any more or less interesting than any other commute on any other day. The train empties like a ship with a leak, slowly losing passengers as we get closer to Brooklyn, until there are only two of us left. There is myself and another gentleman. We are approaching Cortlandt St. Station. There is nothing eventful about any of this at all.

"Ladies and gentlemen, we will be skipping Cortlandt Street due to a fire situation in the station. Next stop will be Rector St. Again, we will be skipping Cortland Street due to a fire situation. Our next stop will be Rector Street. Rector Street next stop."

This is the matter-of-fact announcement made by the train conductor and my initial reaction is one of relief. I'm going to make up a few minutes. I may even now have time for coffee.

Our train slows as we enter Cortlandt Street station. The underground tube of tile and concrete is filled with smoke. The feeling is immediately one of bizarre disquiet coupled with rubberneck curiosity, as though we have entered an amusement park ride in which, at any moment, animatronic mannequins will emerge from within the black clouds dressed as end-of-the-world zombies and the walls will shake around our tram in perfectly timed and choreographed movements of theatrical violence. Seconds pass and the echoing buzz-saw grinds of the train wheels turn into a white noise; the gentle rocking of the snaking car disorients as we lazily wobble through the asphyxiated chamber. It becomes clear that this is more than just a trash can fire, still it is not serious.

Out of the station, back into the tunnel, next stop Rector St.

We enter the station and both myself and the other gentleman exit the train. He is tapping on his Palm Pilot. As we make our way to the station stairs, this man turns to me and says, "It hit the building." There is amazement in his voice, a nonchalant disbelief at what he has just learned, that comes across in his broken statement, this non-sequiter with unassigned pronoun. "It was a plane." He turns back to his phone. I don't respond verbally, just nod with a smile, realizing then he is referring to the "fire situation" we have just passed under. We continue on towards the stairs, the two of us joined now by other financial district stragglers from other cars on the train.

Two weeks before this, a man piloting a paramotor, a small single-propeller craft, managed to entangle his parachute around the torch of the Statue of Liberty while attempting to land on it to perform a stunt bungee jump. This was not unusual, for New York landmarks have always been targets for stunts by publicity-hungry thrill seekers, and this is what immediately entered my mind when told of this mysterious "it" that had hit a building above us. A small stunt-plane, single-prop, at the misguided hands of a idiotic adrenaline-junkie. Nothing more than this.

Our small sleep-weary, commute-addled group climbs the station stairs to greet a beautiful September morning in Lower Manhattan. As we emerge from the green-railed steps onto the street, our eyes are all immediately drawn up to the sky. It is the last Autumn morning in New York City.

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