Every single reason that my mother wrings her hands over me, worried that I’m single, that I’m living in the big city, that I’m not making loads of money, that she’d been married for years when she was my age, can be summed up by one phrase:
West 51st Street and 9th Avenue.
Truthfully, this is not the only phrase. Other nights my mothers worst fears could be summed up by West 4th and 6th Avenue, Union Square, and even 3rd Avenue and East 37th Street. But Saturday night, Hell’s Kitchen it was.
I’d been at a party, and had a few drinks, as per usual. I wasn’t exactly the height of sobriety. I had leave early because I had to work the next day, the boys offered to walk me out. I laughed, “Thanks, but enjoy yourselves in the warmth. I can hail my own cab.”
And I can. I walked one block to get a cab in the right direction (Why do we do this? Why does this matter?) I was walking straight, but really only because I ‘maintain well’. Everyone’s got their random skills in life, mine seems to be the ability to have four Manhattans and walk as if I had not. It’s cold. Fall arrived abruptly this year, I’m still in denial, wearing minimalist sandals, closely-tailored black pants, a flimsy blouse and a jacket thin enough to be cute, but not thin enough to keep me anything close to warm.
There are some rules to hailing cabs without looking like a moron. Well, one, exactly, which is understand the highly uncomplicated lights on top of the cab. Learn them early, learn them quickly, but don’t be out there hailing a cab that cannot be hailed. Everyone is going to know you’re not from here, and you do not need any of that. Possessing this knowledge, I’m standing on the corner, being passed by hundreds of un-hail-able cabs.
And I’m freezing, because the cute outfit works out well for the evening if you can get a cab quickly. But if you can’t, and I can’t, it’s just stupid. And you’re cursing yourself, cursing the intersection, cursing the NYC taxi cab association, cursing the boys who didn’t come downstairs with you despite your protests, and cursing most loudly the woman you mocked in your head for trying to hail an off-duty cab, only to have it pull over and let her in. Damn, damn, damn, damn, damn! It’s well after midnight, and you … Can’t. Get. Home. A complete stranger, a middle-aged guy, is also trying to hail a cab, he says he’ll give you the first one, but he can’t get one either.
The subway is one block away. It’s lit, always open, and you know it’s warm-ish in there. You wait out another cycle of green light/red light, and there are still no cabs. You descend. It smells down there, like freaks and weirdoes and everything else that people always like to tell you are hovering down there, waiting for pretty girls who’ve had too much to drink to arrive. It’s well after midnight; you wait 15 minutes for a train. You get a seat; you’re tired. You try to stay awake but … it’s hard. You know it’s dangerous but you’ve had four Manhattans. Nothing bad has ever really happened to you, and because of this you do not have the fear of god, the fear of Dangerous People Who Take the Subway After Midnight in you. You nod off here and there; you open your eyes at every stop. You see different faces, some sleepy, some looking at you. Then you have to transfer … another wait, another train, and more nodding off.
You get off safely. You always do. You’re lucky, right? You’re counting your days and you know it. You walk the block and half to your apartment, surprisingly alert after your nap. You think, hm, I just saved like 15 bucks, nice. It’s sick. It’s warped. It’s the kinda stuff that keeps your mother up at night.
So you don’t tell her, why would you? That when you had a boyfriend, you never used to worry about getting home safely. That he’d hail the cabs, he’d stay up in the subway if you couldn’t get one. He’d make sure he had two drinks less than you, so he could always walk straight. Don’t tell her that back when you had wandered around this city with someone else, you didn’t have to feel the full weight of your grown-up responsibilities on your shoulders all the time, that the world sometimes seemed a softer, more comforting place. Being single doesn’t bother you so much, but on nights like this you miss That Thing. The guy who would say, ‘To hell with your job, you’re too good for that stuff.’ And, ‘Hey, asshole, leave my girlfriend alone.’ And, ‘Go to bed. I’ll get you a glass of water.’ Yeah, that stuff. Miss that.
It’s 2:30 AM now. Maybe it’s not really my mother that gets kept up at night by this stuff.
i've had some drunken subway adventures in nyc of my own (halloween, wrong train, brooklyn trying to get to manhattan comes to mind...) and like you, i've always made it. the worst subway experiences i've had were in the daytime, one being the guy who had his, ahem, thingy hanging out of his pants and a grin that said: "i'm so proud!", and the other was the day the subways shut down because someone jumped in the tracks and got killed and i saw the body bag being wheeled out. sober subway riding is precarious, too!
Ever read Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney? I think you would like it.
last time i was in hell's kitchen was after a night of drinking at some irish pub with a bunch of girls from the w hotel.
good times. good times.
oooh. i love parker posey, and i've never seen that one before. have you seen personal velocity? shes great in that one.
my personal worst corner in the city is 3rd ave and houston - evil! especially at 3am on a Saturday night. and knowing that it will take me no less than three trains to get home. but i've done it. my logic usually involves the number of national guard in train stations these days and, naturally, the fact that warmth is better than standing on a corner at 3am for who knows how long.
Damn, I need to go to New York just once to have an alcohol filled adventure.