by Emily Weitzman
What the hell are you doing standing by this ticket machine? There are too many trains out of this station for you to be standing here, on this night, on this platform, by this ticket machine, waiting for this city-bound train.
I don’t know if you see me, but you are so close, I can watch the rhythm of your mouth chewing your stupid gum, and I’m hoping the cement floor will camouflage my green velvet dress. I think of hiding from you, behind my friends, but they are all short as fuck, plus we are both tall as fuck, especially me wearing my new New Year’s heels, and there isn’t enough room on this platform to keep drunk people out of eavesdropping distance from one another. And you might be the tallest drunk boy on this platform. I know I’m the tallest drunk girl, especially in my new New Year’s heels. Yesterday, I had my yearly checkup, and the doctor told me that I am in the 100th percentile for height out of all women. Like there is no woman on this earth who is taller than I am.
I have stood here waiting for this train so many times before, though usually not for long. I’m the type of person who is always running late, rushing down the steps from the street to the platform, jamming a $20 from my purse into the mouth of the ticket machine, getting eight silver dollars spat back at me, scooping them up, rushing to the edge of the platform, crossing the yellow caution line, arriving just in time as the bell rings and the train arrives, prepared to carry me away.
At midnight, this year will be over, making tonight this year’s last tonight of all its tonights. I told myself I would ride into the New Year without you, but now this train will ferry us into it together. So you can see why I’m a little upset that it’s not even midnight and my resolution is already fucked. This train will bring us to a place that looks too much like the past not to be, back when I used to stand on this platform with you, and the buildings in the big city we escaped to didn’t seem quite as tall with you next to me.
The night after the day we first kissed, I was on this platform with my family, waiting for the train to take us to a Broadway show. It was not quite the New Year. Everywhere I looked, I thought I saw you. The little girl in the red Christmas dress spinning in circles by the ticket machine. The businessman with a chipped front tooth and one foot dangling over the yellow caution line. The old woman reading her newspaper on the gray bench. The couple walking three bulldogs. I looked down at the cement and saw your face there too. I thought of calling you, asking you to come meet me at the station, to rush down the steps, throw a $20 into the mouth of the monster machine, grab the silver dollars, rush to the edge of the platform, and let the train take us away together. But then the train came, and it wasn’t going to wait, so I got on, and as we pulled out of the station, I watched through the window as I was carried away from dozens of yous.
Suddenly, you see me standing here, and you spit out your stupid gum, and you’re coming towards me, but maybe it’s not you, maybe it’s the girl spinning in circles or the man crossing the yellow line, and I think I should move just in case it is you, but the cement under my feet is quicksand, and as you walk towards me, you are becoming a skyscraper. I’m positive that when it comes to the likelihood of being on this train platform, you are in the 100th percentile. But the train comes before you can reach me. And we both get on separate cars. And the train is moving, but I’m not going anywhere.
In Grand Central, you become lost in the crowd. At midnight, I kiss a stranger in the darkness at a party in Chinatown. As the bursts of “Happy New Year” are trumpeted through the crowd, I picture you, screaming “Happy New Year” somewhere else in this city, as you escape with some other velvet dressed girl, one not nearly as tall as I am. I imagine the two of you leaving together, getting stuck in midtown traffic in a yellow cab as I wait for the train to carry me home.
When I arrive back to my tiny town and step off the train, the cement under my feet still feels like it’s moving. A piece of gum is stuck to the ground near the ticket machine. It’s waiting to get caught in my heel. It looks like a sloppy midnight kiss.