To the Train

One morning a few weeks ago I was sitting on the kitchen floor with my back against the dishwasher, drinking coffee and talking to my roommate as she got ready for work. She leaves an hour earlier than I do, so we rarely see each other during the week — but when our mornings do overlap, we like to linger on the edges of our days together for a few minutes. This time we were discussing our chronic morning lateness, a shared affliction that has bound us since we met.

“It’s as if my perception of time is warped,” I said. “I think it might be a psychological condition.”

“I know what you mean,” Marisa said. “Sometimes I actually run to the subway station. I don’t care that I look insane.”

“Are you serious? I do that sometimes too. It takes minutes off the commute,” I said.

She laughed. “If I’m being real, I run to the train… often.”

“Yeah,” I said, “More than I’d like to admit…”

“Like… a lot.”

“Most days, I’d say.”

Marisa laughed. “I run to the train ninety percent of days.”

We agreed that it must be a funny image to our neighbors who hang out outside the bodegas along 110th street — a girl in business casual running down the sidewalk, one arm swinging back and forth and the other weighted with a purse, keys still clutched in her fist — and then another one, with wet hair and headphones trailing behind her, an hour later. Both having airs not of frenzy or panic, but resignation and defeat: shit, I am running to the subway again. A routine, public concession to an embarrassing weakness — sometimes I roll my eyes at myself as I break into a jog.

Admittedly, I was relieved I wasn’t the only one.

Later that morning I stood on the subway as it lurched downtown, still catching my breath after the run. I saw a framed poem on the wall of the train car:

Awaking in New York
by Maya Angelou
Curtains forcing their will
against the wind, 
children sleep, 
exchanging dreams with 
seraphim. The city
drags itself awake on 
subway straps; and 
I, an alarm, wake as a
rumor of war, 
lie stretching into dawn, 
unasked and unheeded.

I thought that was beautiful: To wake as a rumor of war, unasked and unheeded. Since I also wake in New York, a city of promise and art, I tried to put myself in the context of her words —

I, an alarm, wake as an 
run sweating to the train, 
disheveled and defeated.

Surely less lyrical, but my mornings too are poetic.

Originally published at