I was biking home through Central Park one night when I saw a light up ahead on the Park Loop. I figured it was a low-flying NYPD helicopter and paid it no mind. It was hovering directly in front of my path, illuminating the ground with a strong spotlight. I wanted to avoid the light but there was no way to do it without going off the road and into the grass. Plus, something drew me to the light. Something I couldn’t explain. I rode right into the spotlight and stopped. I looked up but could see nothing but blinding light. The earth shook and the trees swayed like in a hurricane. My bike and my heart rattled so loudly I thought I would shatter into a thousand pieces.
Then, suddenly, the light was gone.The next few weeks were a strange time. Jo couldn’t understand why I had sunburn on only half of my face. I would catch my cat whispering whenever I turned my back. I made strange sculptures with my mashed potatoes. I kept trying to change my iPhone ringtone to some song I’d never heard before but couldn’t stop humming.One night, while working late at the office, I decided I had to get out. I thought I’d pick Jo up at school, since her class was just about to get out. When I got out of the 66 Street Subway Station, I saw the lights. The mothership was landing. And I finally recognized the song I coudn’t get out of my head. The musical juggernaut had come to take me.
(Juilliard School, 65 St & Broadway, Manhattan)
HOLY CRAP I JUST FOUND THIS PHOTO IN MY IPHONE BUT I KNOW I DIDNT TAKE IT AND NOBODY ELSE HAS ACCESS TO IT AND ITS FREAKING ME OUT BECAUSE WHAT THE HELL IS THIS PICTURE I MEAN IT SORT OF LOOKS LIKE A PERSON BUT WHO IS IT BECAUSE I DONT RECOGNIZE HIM OR IS IT HER WELL I GUESS IT DOESNT MATTER EITHER WAY BUT HOLY CRAP I JUST REALIZED WHAT IF ITS A PICTURE OF ME THAT WOULD BE FREAKY BECAUSE HOW COULD IT COME OUT OF MY POCKET AND THEN SNAP A PHOTO THEN GO BACK IN MY POCKET RIGHT IT DOESNT MAKE ANY SENSE BUT THEN WHAT IF ITS LIKE A PHOTO OF ME IN THE FUTURE AND SOMETHING BAD IS HAPPENING AND LIKE I HAVE TO FIGURE OUT WHATS HAPPENING IN THE PHOTO BEFORE I GET
I was waiting for the B train back to Brooklyn when the A pulled up. Not my train, but something caught my eye. “Far Rockaway via JFK Airport” the sign said. I blinked.
The chime rang and the doors began to close. A quick step and I was inside. The people looked different than the ones on my train. Poorer, darker. After Jay Street, I was the only guy in a suit. After Nostrand, I was the only white one.
Somewhere in Queens, the train left the tunnel and I could see rows and rows of small old houses from thirty feet up. You could see right into the backyards and even in some of the windows. Everything was unashamed and out in the open: rusty above-ground pools, moldy Big Wheels, soggy cardboard boxes. When the train stopped at these elevated stations, the cold wind would fill the car, blowing in husky guys wearing uniforms that said JetBlue, DHL, SkyChefs.
A few stops later and we were at the edge of the airport. I followed the crowd up an escalator and onto a smaller, newer train that reminded me of the monorail at Disney World. I hadn’t thought about that trip in a long time. It was our last family vacation before Dad split. He never told us he was leaving for good, just that he had to take a trip. I used to wonder how a person could just leave his family like that, but eventually I stopped.
The little train made its way around the terminals. I got out at Terminal 9, the last one. It was old and decrepit and there were construction barriers everywhere. You couldn’t tell if they were tearing it down or fixing it up.
The next flight was in ten minutes. Shit, I thought. I’m not going to make it. I walked faster. Got through security quickly. “Final boarding,” the announcer began. I started to run. The gate was at the very end of the concourse — a straight shot but still several hundred yards away. I ran faster. I felt my chest burn. My ankles hurt. I thought I might lose a shoe.
I got there just as the door was about to close. I was winded and I wanted to vomit, but Goddamn I made it. I found my seat and sat down, sweaty but satisfied. In a few hours, I’d be in Orlando. I closed my eyes.
The A pulled out of the station and a few moments later a B arrived. I got on and was back in Brooklyn in about 30 minutes. I picked up the kids from day care and we ate pasta for dinner. My wife and I watched TV until we both fell asleep.
(Jay St Station)
I was taking a short nap in the corner when Clocks burst into the break room. (His real name was Hoyt, but everyone in the precinct called him Clocks because he always wore two watches [“in case one dies,” he’d always say].) Clocks was balding, plump, and also a bit of a police buff, even after ten years on the job. But he always seemed like a kid because he was never ashamed of his enthusiasm.
“Guys,” he said breathlessly, “It’s here. It’s finally here.”
“What’s here, Clocks,” asked Stick, whose real name actually was Stick.
“The new RMP,” he cried. “I gotta tell the others!”
And in a blink he was gone and we could hear his heavy footsteps fading away in the direction of the locker room. The rest of us got up slowly, so as not to look too interested in the new arrival, even though we each knew how excited we all were. But we pretended not to care — not much, anyway. It was habit.
Twenty years later, I still remember the first time I saw that Radio Motor Patrol, that RMP, that cop car. Orange, blue, black, sleek. It made me feel proud — and it still does, even though I never did get to drive it. You see, everything on the job is doled out by seniority. By the time I had enough years to be first in line for a new RMP, this one was already too old for an old timer like me. We let the rookies have it.
(Old Slip & South St)