September 19, 2012

Close encounter on the NYC subway

Polaroid photo by my husband
This morning on the subway, I had an encounter with a woman who was ... well, I think she has some mental problems that are not being fully addressed, let's just put it that way.

She was one of a pair who were either members of a religious group or just very strange panhandlers.

And that's saying something, considering this is NYC.

The guy -- about 25, basically clean except for a couple of holes in his pants, nice new shoes -- walked up and down the subway car muttering incantations and waving his right hand over everyone's heads. Since we were all sitting down -- I start my ride at the end of the line, so seats are easy to grab -- there was no one for him to shove aside in order to do this hand waving and chanting ritual.

He had a book in his left hand that resembled the Bible, but he wasn't chanting anything Biblical. Honestly, I couldn't understand anything he was saying. It sounded like English, but gibberish.

As he did that, the woman -- maybe 30, wearing what looked like a possibly fake cast on her arm, but also clean clothes, dreadlocks and hole-free shoes -- walked up to me. At that moment, I was actually making notes by hand, in a red notebook that I keep for times when Pandora Chronicles ideas strike me. The subway is like my shower -- it's true. I get great ideas there.

I had just written a gem to use in short story no. 3, when this woman says to me, "I know what you're doing."

Oh really?

I didn't want to encourage Ms. Dreadlocks, so I kept my head down and kept writing. Her partner kept walking up and down the car, chanting. Then she said again to me, "I know what you're doing. You're working. With your fancy phones and bags and everything. And now you're going to work, too. You think you're so smart because you're going to work at some office someplace. Well, you know what? Your soul isn't saved, so how smart are you, really? I can tell my looking at you that you're going to hell."

I say again to myself: Oh really?

We pulled into a station, and I got off the train. Was it my stop? No. But I didn't feel like dealing with this first thing in the morning, so I waited for the next train.

The next train came, I got on, and a few minutes later I got off at my usual stop.

Guess who's there, in my station, sitting on a bench?

Ms. Dreadlocks. Thankfully, she didn't notice me as I dove into the middle of the crowd going up the stairs. Her partner in crime was nowhere to be seen. Maybe he's still walking up and down the subway cars, chanting.

Will this encounter appear in short story no. 3 of The Pandora Chronicles? You can bet on it.

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