Thursday, 20 November 2008

New York, Day 3

I walked down to the subway stop this morning, through the twisted security gate, past the corner boys, the 99c stores, the fried chicken joints, the cash advance stores, the lottery ticket result signs, and down the wrong subway entrance. I swiped my Metro pass only to discover I was on the wrong side of the tracks. That's Harlem.
For the first time in my life I am the ethnic minority, the odd one out in a sea of faces. My culture has no currency here, and people are racist. And I mean racist. I represent an amorphous evil, an oppressive and malevolent force, a willfully misunderstanding overclass. Who I am doesn't matter here; it is what I am. I'm The Man.

Backtracking to the right subway entrance, I buy a coffee from Dunkin' Donuts and try to swipe my Metro pass. No deal. Rashonda at the Orwellian help-fortress blares that I must wait 18 minutes between swipes. I stand in the dirty, gray cattlepen, watching trains go past, looking at my watch, sipping my coffee. I catch my reflection in some shatterproof glass; with my scarf, my glasses, my sweater, I look like Harry Potter. The lid of my coffee cup is shaped like a Tommee Tippee sipper. As I stand here, waiting patiently, I feel strangely infantilised.

The crush of the subway rattles me downtown. The carriages sway and make shrill sounds. It is a small island but the trip takes twenty minutes and I get out a few stops earlier than I'd planned just to be free of it. The day is calm but the wind is chill and people hurry with coffee and newspapers in between cars and scaffolded sidewalks, and with steam rising in blinding clouds from subway grilles there is no stillness to the streets.

No comments: