There are some mornings when I sit, paperback in hand, just one among thousands of sleepy passengers careening through the ancient tunnels of New York City, and I find myself wishing an impossible wish. I hold my breath and—eyes focused on the blurred mosaics outside the window—I wish that my train would just keep going… Going and going, past my Union Square stop, past Canal all the way down, down, through all of Brooklyn, past Coney Island and Stillwell, crashing right into the icy waters of the Atlantic and beyond...
I’ve always been a bit of an escapist. I slip into the pages I read. I get lost in thought. I sleep to dream.
I often wonder if there are many like me: for whom the reality and the fantasy can also meld so easily. I stare at the faces in my car—the man rustling through the sports page, the NYU girls gossiping in their legwarmers, the young mother calming her screaming child—they all seem so here. They all seem so present. Almost as if that's all there is. And with a mix of fear and pride, I suspect that I’m destined to spend a life weaving fantasies, bridging one world to the other.
My eyes settle on the elderly woman across from me. Her thin hair is pulled back tightly; her face is creased by the years. We stare at each other—two women at opposite ends of a subway car, two women at opposite ends of our lives. And I wonder if she ever has mornings like I did the other day, where she wakes up throbbing and damp, pulling herself away from a dream that was just too vivid…just too good. Does she dream of vodka or the color red or the backseat of a blurry yellow cab? Does she ever find herself invaded by thoughts of a remembered kiss, a breath on her neck, a strong hand pulling at her thighs. I wonder for a moment if this is a part of me that will fade as the years pass. And then I close my eyes, I bite my lip, and I feel the goose bumps beneath the heavy layers of wool and silk as I lose myself in pair of absent arms.
“It’s your imagination that turns me on,” I told him once. Or maybe I never actually said it; perhaps I only dreamt that I did. Either way, it’s true. I seek others like me. Others for whom a word can stretch into a story, for whom a line can bend into a work of art. I want to surround myself with the minds that race ahead while others sit complacently and with the ones who stand still amid the roar. I ache for the comfort of understanding, for that safe, rare place where raised eyebrows are replaced by knowing nods.
The train stops and I’m forced to get out. I’m swept along in the sea of students and office workers each battling to shave seconds off their commute. It’s on these mornings when I pause outside the station, turning down the fliers and newspapers that are pushed my way. I light a cigarette and take deep, deliberate drags, watching the paper burn and the smoke dance and hang in the air above me. And for just a moment, I am that smoke, floating high and dissolving into the day. I love this city. I love my job and the friends that I’ve met since I’ve moved back. I don’t even mind living at home that much. But there are moments when all that I want is to lose myself in the familiar warmth of my dreams.
The ember in my hand goes out and I toss the remains into a puddle. As I walk towards my office, I feel the rumble in the vents beneath my feet, and I realize that though I’ve stepped off for a while, that train has not stopped. I can get off and on as I please, and that, perhaps, is the beauty of this gift.