We were on the 6 train headed down to Union Square when two women got on at 57th street. They were both hammered, one more so than the other. The really drunk woman missed the seat and sat on Toby Joe’s lap instead. Unable to focus on his eyes or face for that matter, she slurred some nonsense in his general direction. She tried squeezing her boney butt in between her friend and Toby Joe and eventually it fell into place. Her friend let out a high pitched cackle.
In all my time living in the city, I hadn’t ever seen a person as drunk as she was, (excluding the plethora of career drunk bums). And she was what one might call a “high society” girl. She wore pearl earrings and a necklace to match. She had on a floral dress that most likely ran her hundreds and hundreds of dollars. Her long blond hair, which held remnants of a once perfect haircut, was disheveled from the drunken hours that had previously taken place. Her shoes probably ran half as much as my 2500-dollar car. She was not hurting for money but she was certainly hurting from booze.
It was 9:30 PM on a Friday and the downtown trains were pickle packed with people going to and from clubs and restaurants, Broadway plays and bars. Everyone was headed somewhere, the remains of their week fell away from memory like flakes of dead skin. I could smell the alcohol coming from the girls and I amused myself by trying to guess what it was they had been drinking at a rapid-fire rate. Beer? Wine? Manhattans? Shots of Tequila? Or had it been something truly stereotypical like a Cosmopolitan. I imagined a less annoying New York City without a Candace Bushnell.
At 28th street a man walked onto the train holding his iPod. The white cords sprouted from the top and planted themselves firmly within each ear. The drunken girl got up and faced him. She must know him, I thought. She put her arm around him.
“Swhat ur you lissening to?” She whispered.
He whispered something back.
He removed one of his earbuds and handed it to her. She smiled down at her friend.
“You have GOT to be kidding me!” Her friend yelled out. “Do you know what you’re even doing anymore?”
The drunken girl’s face squeezed together and her right eye slammed shut as she tried to pull off a wink.
The girl and the man stood arm-in-arm and listened to his iPod.
I thought they knew each other. It had been a bizarre greeting between two friends. I hadn’t heard a “Hello!” or a “How’ve you been?” He never even took his earphones out. But she didn’t know him and her friend’s reaction made that perfectly clear. For the less attractive guy it must have felt like Christmas.
Her friend, who still sat next to Toby Joe, shook her head.
“How does someone get this drunk without throwing up first?” I whispered to Toby Joe.
At Union Square life switched speeds and began to move in slow motion. The train slowed down and creaked its way into the station. Suddenly the girl began to sway. She began to wobble. She moved to the right with the train and all eyes followed her. She moved to the left with the train and all eyes followed. Then, just like that, she began to fall.
“TIMMMMMMBEERRRRRRRRR!” I thought.
And that’s when the most peculiar dance took place. As if it had been choreographed to the music coming through the stranger’s headphones, all those standing moved gracefully out of her way. None of them bumped into each other, yet all of them moved in unison. It was the parting of the people. My feet moved out from directly below my knees to under my butt and the seat that held me up. As she fell, the wire between the two stretched out and formed a perfectly straight, white line. And just when it couldn’t get any tighter, it immediately drew back again, a rubber band connecting two human ears. The earbud shot out from the side of her head and moved toward the guy on the other end. He watched in horror, bewildered awe. Christmas was over. His present fell to the ground lacking the greatest of ease.
After she landed, life sped up again. The other spectators settled into their new positions. Everyone had been afraid to touch her, including Toby Joe and myself. No one helped her up. Even the stranger, who had initially seemed so excited by her sudden attention stood aside.
“ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?” Her friend yelled out. “ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?! YOU JUST FELL ON THE FUCKING SUBWAY!”
The train had come to a complete stop and everyone let the two girls exit first. On their way out, the girl yanked on her friend’s hair.
“WHAT, YOU’RE TRYING TO PICK A FIGHT WITH ME NOW?”
We followed them out the door and up the stairs. They headed toward the exit on 14th street. We headed toward the L. They probably headed out for more.
“If I had a friend like that, I might try and fight her, too.” I muttered to Toby Joe.
I imagined the headlines on Saturday’s tabloids, the papers that try and sell themselves as news, and then I hoped I’d never see her face again.