On the inside
When I got to the Herald Square station on my way home tonight, I heard music. I couldn’t quite place the instrument. Dulcimer? Not quite. When I came through the turnstile, I saw the band. Guitar, drums, and an enormous cimbalom, playing jazz. I wanted to stop and listen, but I couldn’t. There were people behind me. I descended into the steaming subway tunnels and listened to the sounds echoing from up above, bent and distorted by the twists and turns of the stairwells. This is what I love and hate about New York. There is so much to see and hear, but you can’t stop to take it in or you’ll get mown down by someone in back of you. You have to notice quickly and save it for later, to think about as the train rumbles through station after station on your way to where you’re going.
It was a good day. A very good day. I feel like I”m making things up as I go along. But so far so good. I will screw up sometime, I’m sure. I’m starting to figure out where the fault lines lie. I like what I’m doing so much that I don’t want to leave at the end of the day. I like what I’m doing so much that I lie awake thinking about things, not because I have to, but because I like thinking about them. “How are you doing?” people keep asking me. “How are you settling in?” But it’s not really a settling in kind of job. It’s more of a diving in kind of job. I’m still a slow swimmer, but I’m pretty good at floating.
Someone showed me how to take the stairs today, the secret way to circumvent the key cards you need to get in and out of all the doors. The stairs are lined with glow-in-the-dark tape, just in case. I now know where to get a good slice of pizza for $3. I sat at the formica table in the back of the pizzeria with my friend S, talking about books and writers and men who don’t stick around and the crazy things we do to make them like us. We kept sipping our Diet Cokes long after the sodas were empty, draining the melted ice as an excuse to keep talking until it was time to go back. I know which toilet in the ladies’ room never flushes on the first try. I could show you how to find the shelf with a review copy of a book with the tantalizing title, “The Hottest Dishes of the Tatar Region.” (I am not making this up) I know who to ask to punch a hole in your key card. If you ask nicely, he may even give you a cord to carry it around your wrist. But I still have to check my business card when someone asks for my phone number.
I survived my first computer class (there are more to come), learning a software program written in Germany with a quirkily inconsistent vocabulary. I learned the difference between publication date and release date and a few other types of dates that I’ve already forgotten. I survived the fire alarm going off. We rolled our eyes at each other and ignored it and laughed ten minutes later when they came over the intercom to tell us everything was okay and to go back to what we were doing as if we’d ever stopped. I rode the elevator down tonight and said goodnight to the security guard in the lobby. I know his name now and he knows mine. I learned today that in the African country where he comes from, he was a lawyer.
On the subway on the way home, I thought about work and about what I would do if I moved to Africa and the cimbalom player, hammering out a delicate tune in the raw, wet light of a subway station on a rainy summer night.