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)