Three Strangers

Tonight, three strangers asked me questions.

***

A short, older man wearing a gray t-shirt and gray shorts stumbled out of a liquor store on 1st Avenue and called weakly to me.

“Excuse me,” he said. I didn’t turn around. But then he said it again, so I did. “Do you know of another wine or liquor store around here?”

“Sorry,” I said. “I don’t.”

I reminded myself silently that I shouldn’t apologize so much. After half a block, I turned around to check whether he was following me. He had disappeared.

***

A woman walking in front of me to transfer from the L to the G train in the Lorimer Street station stopped short before the stairs of the Queens-bound G entrance. I was distracted by a man who was standing at the top of the stairs in an all-white outfit – it might have been a Benjamin Moore uniform – asking a different woman a question. Were they saying something about the train not coming? I wondered if the G stopped running after a certain time tonight, like it did last night, a fact that I unfortunately discovered after midnight in Park Slope, which is not close to where I live. The woman who had been walking in front of me turned around as I caught up to her. “Do you know if this side is the one that goes to Nassau?”

I thought for a moment before remembering that Nassau is my stop. “Yes, it does,” I said. She thanked me and I watched her walk down the platform in her floral print dress, her long, shiny brown hair swaying from side to side across her back. It ended just beneath her shoulder blades. I wondered if my hair had gotten near that length yet and so I reached my left arm up my back to check. I found that my hair is only barely past my shoulders.

***

I was reading my book, waiting for the G train to come, so I could ride it one stop further to Nassau. Actually, I wasn’t reading my book. I had paused reading my book and was staring across the platform, trying to imagine really wanting to kill myself because in the book that I’m reading, a severely depressed woman who has attempted suicide several times asks her sister to take her to Switzerland so that she can have an assisted suicide. I thought about the time a friend told me that he thought about wanting to die every single day and how after he said it I couldn’t think of a single thing to say that would be adequate or feel anything other than sad. Not sad for him, but for myself. In the midst of recalling this, I decided that it was too difficult and painful for me to try to imagine wanting to die.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a small woman approach me from the side. I was still holding my book out in front of me like I was reading it, but I closed it and turned my head toward her. She had wide eyes and had long, shiny brown hair like the last woman who’d approached me.

“Do you know if this train goes to Clinton-Washington?” she asked. She spoke with an accent and I first assumed she must be a native Spanish speaker, though I couldn’t tell from where she came. Then I wondered if maybe I was wrong, if perhaps she spoke Portuguese. I gave up and considered her question.

“You have to go to the other side for that,” I said, pointing across the tracks to the opposite platform. She thanked me and I opened my book and began to read in earnest.

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