After a night out on the Lower East Side, I wait for the “F” train at West 4th Street. It’s just after 3:00 a.m. and I’m feeling it, so I sit down on a bench between two men. Man #1 sits to my right and has a book in his lap; Man #2 sits to my left and enthusiastically eats a bag of Doritos.
Man #1 says to me: “Are you tired?”
Me: “I am.”
Man #1: Well, at least it’s Friday, you can sleep in.”
Me: “I usually wake up with the sun.”
Man #1 looks perplexed.
Me: “If I go to sleep at five and the sun comes up at six, then I may wake up at six, regardless.”
Man #1:“But then you could have a nap during the day, couldn’t you?”
Me: “I suppose I could, yes.”
Man #2 wrestles with the bag of Doritos and I ask Man # 1 about the book he’s reading.
Man #1: “This is the first book I’ve ever read.”
Man #1: “Yeah, I’m dating a girl who reads a lot and she knows a lot more than me. It makes me feel like a piece of shit.”
Me: “Well that’s ridiculous. It doesn’t matter what you do or what you have or what you read. What matters is who you are, what kind of man you are.”
Man #2 munches on the chips and nods his head in agreement.
Man #1: “Yeah but I still feel like a piece of shit.”
Me: “But you only believe you are a piece of shit, it doesn’t make it true.”
Man #1 is unconvinced.
Man #2: “There should be more people like you. You’re very direct.”
Man #1: “Yeah, before you sat down he and I didn't even know each other. Now look, we’re all having a conversation.”
Soon I begin to offer Man #1 suggestions for other books I think he’d like. He writes them down on a piece of scrap paper.
Me: “You’ve really got to read more, and not just for your woman, but for yourself. Your world gets bigger, it expands your thinking.”
Man #1: “Yes, I can see that.”
Just then I notice another man, Man #3 (attractive and young) sitting on the seat to the left of Man #2. Man #3 leans over and smiles at me.
The “E” train arrives, not my train, and both Man #1 and Man #2 say goodnight to me and get on board.
Man #3 now sits beside me in the seat that Man #2 has vacated.
Man #3: “Were those your friends?”
Me: “I just met them.”
Man #3: “Tonight?”
Me: “Right now, right here.”
Man #3:“Oh, I thought you were friends. Did you exchange numbers?"
Me: “Excuse me?”
Man: “Did you give them your number?”
Man #3: “I believe that communication is the basis for all relationships. Can I have your number?”
Me: (Laughing) “No.”
Man #3: “Why not?”
Me: “Because I’m not interested in meeting a man tonight.”
Man #3: “I can tell you’re older than me.”
Me: “Wow, you’re smooth.”
Man #3 laughs. “Seriously, I find it attractive.”
Me: “How old do you think I am?”
Man #3: “Between 35 and 40.”
Me: “Well you’re wrong, I’m 43.”
Man #3: “Well, you’re beautiful.”
Me: “And you’re full of shit.”
Man #3: “So, will you at least take my number?”
The train pulls up and we both get on. I know that Man #3 is going to continue his harmless flirting, so in an attempt to gain some power over the situation I instruct him to sit beside me.
“I’m calling the shots now,” I say.
We look ahead and see a very drunken guy teetering in his seat.
Another man, Man #4, sits in a seat across from us.
Man #4: “That guy’s pretty messed up.”
Man #3 asks me: “Did you drink tonight?”
Man #4: “You didn’t drink tonight?”
Man #4: “Wow, that’s commendable.”
Just then I realize that most people who are on the train on a Saturday morning at 3:30 have likely been out drinking. It's probably what bonds them all in some way as they each make their way home.
Man #3: “Really? You didn’t have one drink tonight?”
Me: “No, why? Does it seem as if I’ve been drinking?”
Man #3: “No, but usually people have to drink to express themselves.”
Me: “They do?”
Man #4: “I do. I need to drink to express myself.”
Man # 3: At least it’s Friday, if you wanted to drink, you could sleep in.
Me: “I usually wake with the sun.”
Man #3: “Why don’t you give me your number? You have good skin, beautiful hair, eyes…”
Me: “Listen, you’re an attractive guy but I’m not one of those 20-year-old girls you hit on who just giggle and don't know what to say when you lean into them on the train and flash them those teeth of yours.”
Man #3: (Laughing) “What about my teeth?”
Me: “You know how adorable you are, you know you can be a pushy jerk, and that once you flash that smile a girl is going to melt. You use it all the time and now you’re trying to use it on me, but it’s not going to work because I’m just not interested.”
Man #3 gives up and prepares to exit the train at 42nd Street, the next stop. He turns to me and says: “Most people walk around half dead, but you’re alive. You’re a beautiful woman, smart and funny and whatever man has you, he’s a lucky man.”
Me: “Thank you, that’s a lovely thing to say.”
Man #3 puts his arms around me and gives me a respectful hug.
“Goodnight sweetheart,” he calls as he exits the train.
Man #4 says something I can’t quite make out.
Me: “Did you just say, ‘Transantastic’?”
Man #4: “No, YOU said ‘Transantastic,’ I said ‘Transcendental.’”
Me: “I like that word.”
Man #4: “Transcendental?”
Me: “No, Transantastic.”
Man #4: “A new word, and it all began right here on the “A” train.”
Me: “And in 10 years it will be in the dictionary. And after you get off the train we will never see each other again but we’ll use the word and always remember where it began.”
Man #4: “No, we WILL see each other again. One year from tonight, on this train.”
Me: “I’ll be in the back of the car, you’ll be in the front, and I’ll whisper the word, ‘Transantastic.’ You’ll whip your head around and you’ll see me.
Man #4: “And I’ll say it back to you.”
Me: “Even better, be living it. In one year, be living a transantastic life.”
Man #4: “Okay.”
He prepares to exit at the next stop.
Me: “But wait, we have to have its definition.”
Man #4: “Okay. Its definition is waking with the sun, living life, and not giving a shit about tomorrow.”
Man #4 says goodnight and just as he steps off of the train another man, Man, #5, sits down in the seat that Man #4 has just vacated. Man #5 smiles at me, and I smile… then close my eyes and pretend to sleep.