Old Dogs

MTA


3am
in The Village
drunk and tired
practically
broke

I catch
an empty 1 train
at the Sheridan Square station
aiming
toward the South Ferry Terminal
planning
to hop the slow boat
to Governors Island
hopefully arriving in time
to get in a few hours sleep
before putting on my uniform
and beginning
the morning
routine

Houston
Canal
Franklin
Chambers
the stops roll by
the rhythm of the car
breaks through the fog
in my battered brain
the rush of stale air
and rocking motion
reviving me
transit providing
anticipation
and the hope
of change

at Cortlandt Street
I remember a few bars
in the Financial District
and at the South Seaport
still possibly open

I could grab
a nightcap
before capping
my night in the city

I decide to disembark
at the Rector Street stop
hike through the canyons
of capitalism
and find
that
last
drink

I step out
onto an open platform
thinking
that I hadn't
seen a soul
the entire trip
and now
as the last car
went speeding past
and silence descended
I was alone
in this Serlingesque scene
beneath one of the world's
largest metropolises
swimming in solitude
and sucking in
the stagnate
atmosphere

I stifle
a cold shiver
and proceed
to an exit
only to be greeted
by blackened bars
chained and locked
allowing not even
a tiny glimpse
up the stairs
to the street
above

I turn
and make my way
across the platform
hoping the other passage
was still unrestricted
but a mirror image
mocks my effort

I am trapped
in a subterranean pit
of nightmarish proportions
a denizen of the plains
held helpless captive
by this gigantic city
bearing down
upon me

my options
seemed limited

hunker down here
and wait
for the next train
and whatever else
might find me

or...

I peer down
the dimly lit tunnel
a string of feeble
service lights
illuminating
a narrow walkway
which disappears
into an infinite darkness
offering an unreceptive
alternative
of escape

I gaze across
to the opposing platform
unpopulated by even me
and wonder as to
the status
of those gates
but one look down
across the ditch of tracks
one rail menacingly shiny
amongst the muck and mud
makes me reconsider
any thoughts
of crossing

time
drips slowly
into the panicked pool
of my awareness

what if
the train
had stopped by mistake

what if
I was stranded here
until daybreak

what if
the rumored occupants
of these city caverns
discover me here
and carry me off
into obscurity

what if...

I was spiraling
quickly toward
insanity
as the onslaught
of claustrophobia
crept closer

a rush
of warm
advancing air
engulfs me
from the north
the sickening sour breath
of an approaching
leviathan

then
a light
and finally
a familiar racket
the rattling and squealing
of an oncoming
and slowing
train

I revel
at its appearance

after it stops
I leap aboard
without trepidation
even though no human form
graces its interior

it was as if
the city had staged
a one man play
for my benefit
just to remind me
of the insignificance
of this lone
actor

I sit now
in the ferry terminal
basking in the fluorescence
and devouring an Eskimo Pie
purchased from the crusty
refrigerated vending
machine

a setting
willingly substituted
for a dark bar
and cold beer

I laugh
at my recent
predicament
but remember
that subtle fear
never again to depart
any underground conveyance
before first looking
for those iron bars
of brutal
self realization