Friday. 6pm. I stood on the Queens-bound N/R/W platform at 59th and Lex, encumbered by a gym bag that would go unused. (I am lazy. But that is tangential to this story.)
A man and his female companion approached me tentatively, his larrikin charm warding off any ill will I might otherwise feel at my reverie being interrupted.
"Excuse me," he said. "Is this where we get the four?"
From the way he dropped his Rs I could tell he was a fellow Australian.
"Are you going uptown or downtown?" I asked. The response didn’t matter — the 4 and 5 trains all depart from the same platform. But my point of clarification made me sound more like a resident of New York. A person who belonged here. Not some tourist.
"Uptown," he said. "Yankee Stadium."
I took note of his Yankees cap and Yankees shirt and felt sheepish. His face also betrayed the merest hint of recognition — he could hear from my accent that I was probably from the same country. Maybe even the same city. Perhaps we’d both been to Bondi Beach on the same day and felt the same grains of sand between our toes. But all this passed between us in unspoken acknowledgment.
"Well then," I said confidently, eager to display my extensive knowledge of he city’s transit system. "You need to go upstairs."
Wrong. This was wrong. But I was so caught up in the subtext that tied us together — the tangy smell of the sea; the fact that our feet probably had the same V-shaped tan lines from wearing flip-flops to the corner store in summer — that I just said the first thing that came to me.
He thanked me and lead his girlfriend upstairs, where they would find the uptown 6. I leaned against a girder thinking of home. And then I realized. But he was gone.
I’m sorry. I hope you got to see the Yankees.