Yesterday I took a rare trip to the UES, to meet friends. The first step was the dismally slow R train, which is slower & even more dismal on the weekends. I just missed a train, so read the local paper ("Store owner harassed over lesbian discounts!") until the next one arrived. I was also watching a man on the platform. He had a modified mohawk in two shades, a pale blue plaid shirt, & a tiny fitted waistcoat. The earbuds in his headphones were the same pale blue as his shirt. He had a very feminine, curvy ass, so I wondered if maybe he was a woman. On the train, several people eyed him up and down, and I wondered what it would be like to be noticeable.
I switched to the 4, and Curvy Man switched too. At Union Square the conductor announced that there was a sick passenger onboard, & that we'd be waiting in the station "for a short while". There was a collective groan, & everyone thought, "yeah, right". People sat around, wondering whether to stay or go. New, unsuspecting passengers got on, and inwardly we were pleased. The train sat. We sat. There was no sign of medical help. I decided to get out & take the 6 across the platform. When I got out, I found that the sick rider was right in the next carriage, & there was a crowd around the doorway. There he lay, a youngish black guy, splayed on the floor, with his hand twitching slightly. His side of the car was empty, with just a conductor standing over him, and the rest of the riders huddled at the other end. Outside, people discussed the slow response. "Shit, this place is always full of cops, and not one around now!" scoffed one. "I hope I don't have a heart attack here!" said another, almost cheerfully. Next to me, trembling on a bench, a frail looking woman with a surgical mask.
Still no response. This subway stop, of course, has its own fucking police station, so you'd think they could get some help. I decide to go there, & run up the steps & through the corridors. When I arrive, the officer has heard nothing of a sick passenger, but as we speak, he sees some sort of message online & says help is on the way. Doesn't seem much bothered. I run back.
Back at the 4 platform, the crowd has dispersed onto other trains. It's just the guy lying on the floor, eyes closed and motionless, but breathing, and the conductor, who's looking sick with worry by now. "You know they don't give us medical training." We wait some more. Finally, two EMTs appear, & slowly, yes, slowly, make their way up the platform. When they're in the car, sliding off their gear & eying the guy on the floor with a singular lack of concern, I leave.
On to another 4, now running on the local track. No Curvy Man on this train, but there is a bunch of Mexican musicians. If I have change, I usually give performers & panhandlers money, & these guys were good. Next to them, though, was a woman with a dog stroller, & the dog, a poodle, set to howling at the band. Plenty of people laughed, including the musicians, but the dog's owner got pretty pissed, and complained. "He hates that music you know!" She rocked the stroller, as you would a carriage with a restless infant, and looked tense. When the band moved to the next car, she said, loudly, "This is what he likes!" & gave us a few twangy bars of Hound Dog. This seemed absurd, & I wished she'd chosen a different song. That's what happened though, and I can't pretend otherwise. I thought maybe I was losing my mind. Next to her, two fat women wearing a lot of gold were reading chick-lit and giggling. One of them played some pretty meaty gospel & hummed along.
When I got off the train I walked across 86th to the park. There was the woman with the surgical mask, with an old, but healthier looking partner. I was going to take her picture, but just as I was taking my camera out, the man swivelled round, & I shoved it in my pocket. Maybe she had cancer or something. I'd be pretty sick myself to take a picture of a terminally ill person. To be publicly shamed, between Park & Madison, by the elderly spouse of a mask-wearing woman, was a risk not worth taking. I overtook them, & sped on towards Fifth.