Dinner on the 7 train:
I’ve recently started playing hockey at a rink just across the river
in Queens. Playing hockey in New York is a thing all in itself. There
is limited rinks, noone has cars, space is limited-and expensive.
There’s really only two rinks in the city, Lasker in Central Park
which is an outdoor rink, and Chelsea Piers on the westside which is
the most expensive and nicest from what I have heard. I have been
playing in Queens, which isn’t too far and a bit cheaper.
This is how I find myself sitting on a Queens train westbound at 1 am
on a Friday night. Not exactly the place you want to be if you are new
to and unsure of the city. I survey the car for any other white faces.
None. Mostly dirty, blue collar types workers getting off some late
construction shift, homeless guys sleeping, drunks, beggars, a number
of others. Who knows why anyone rides the train at 1 am. Hardly a
place of inspiration, in my mind. But moments come when they come.
A beggar came through from the other car. Probably late twenties.
Wearing a baggy, stained hoodie, big torn jeans, boots, flatbrim cap.
Dirty. In broken English he said he was hungry, needed something ‘for
eat’. The usual. Beggars on the train are frequent. He gave his bit in
broken English, a lot of god bless you’s. Then he did it in Spanish. A
few people gave him some scattered change, a dollar bill or two. He
moved on to the next car. A few stops later he came back to my car and
was begging again. A man sitting cattycorner from me who had just
gotten on motioned for him to come over. He had a bag with him. He
pulled out what looked like a full plate of just made dinner. I was in
disbelief! It was like he had pre-planned it, like he was some sort of
genie that could materialize a home made plate of hot food (poof!) out
of thin air. I was blown away. From thin air, this guy materialized a
large plate with a huge piece of chicken, cornbread, a few other
things. It was still hot, steaming, and smelling delicious. The
homeless man sat down across from him graciously accepted. He suddenly
had a full plate of warm delicious food on his lap, someone to sit
with for a minute. Like a normal person. As soon as the thought
crossed my mind, normal person, so many other thoughts happened
simultaneously. Like it had probably been a long time before this guy
had had a full plate of food in front of him. Like it had probably
been a long time he ate home cooked delicious food- he had downed the
entire plate before we hit Grand Central. Like it had probably been a
long time since someone had shared a moment with him, a meal with him,
treated him as another one of your friends, just over for dinner, on
the 7 train. I felt so ashamed of myself and so moved by the man’s
gesture all in one second. I felt so ungrateful for all the dinners I
take for granted with my roommates, my girlfriend, new friends in the
city, family. I realized I take for granted so often the pleasure in
sitting down with with a friend, delicious food, sharing a laugh, a
conversation, insight, thoughts, what it means to have someone listen
to you, what it means to have someone acknowledge you. To be a person.
I want to say thank you to everyone I have shared time with, food
with, conversation with. I want to say thank you for every meal
someone has prepared for me. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, your
space, your time, your acknowledgement with me.