“Hey Tulio.” I nodded. He lifted his hat and said hello in return. Tulio had used to make growling tiger noises when I walked by his car shop on my street. Now we’re neighbors, and I have his respect and we are on a regular, proper greeting basis. Sometimes he even lifts his hat. The rest of his mechanics also greet me with the name I have come to accept, “Hey, Mami.”
Their garage is too small for all of the cars that they work on--no surprise there--so they work outside most of the time. I see them on my runs, on my way to the gym, on my way to work… Never on my commute from work. They don’t work in the wee hours of the morning like Mami does. But we are neighbors and I like them.
I was up extra early for an interview for job #3. It only seems normal to be trying to pick up a third job here in New York. I swiped my metrocard, but I had already swiped on the other side of the platform. I had fucked up my transportation plan without thinking. The machine made fun of me for my careless mistake:
I swiped out my frustration until my brain finally told my heart there was no use. The sounds of the train drained the hope right out of me. The train arrived. The doors opened. I was going to miss my train.
“No, no, no...” I breathed.
A stranger coming out of the train met my eyes. He read my eyes. He ran towards the door and kicked it open for me. I imagine he had been bullied by the "Just used" chanting of the subway gates once before and had, from that day forward, sworn that he would save a victim from their clutches if he ever could. And he did.
“Thank you, Good Sir!” I called out and rushed passed him. The train doors began to slide closed. There was still no way I was going to make it. A man at the doors of the train stuck out his foot and pressed his hands against the doors. I jumped into the train as the man held the doors open for me. I nodded and thanked the tall dark man as I caught my breath, and the train took off for Canarsie. He said nothing and seemed to act as if he had done nothing. Fine, I thought, be the humble hero.
After my interview, I waited on the platforms to return home. The A train was delayed. The L train was delayed. I felt like I would be stuck in downtown Brooklyn for a while. That didn't matter much to me. I quite enjoyed public transportation, delays and all.
“There are always delays!” a woman with an extremely large mouth shouted into the tunnels.
“And now they’re raising the fare to 2.75!” A short round man coughed.
“You’re telling me,” I shook my head, “Sheesh.”
“That’s right, Mami,” the man replies. "That's right."
We all sighed and watched our breath fog up into the tunnels. It’s spring. My sisters have been talking about tank tops and, I'm not sure I believe it, but temperatures in the 80s. But here, in Brooklyn, in my neighborhood, it snowed that morning. I guess the winter of New York isn’t done with me yet. Mami still has a few more tough layers to put on before she earns her right to summer dresses, jean jackets, and sunglasses.