The 1 train was unusually crowded that day, and barreling along at unusual speed; I was standing toward the center in heeled boots, considering my loneliness. When the train jerked suddenly, one of my legs slid and bumped into the foot of a woman sitting down.
“Oops! Sorry!” I said to her over my shoulder. The train wheezed forward.
I felt something banging against my calf, and I looked down. It was her foot. She was kicking me repeatedly in the leg. Not hard, but persistently. Kick. Kick. Kick.
Ha! I thought. This must have been some kind of hilarious miscommunication!
I turned to face her again, smiling in mutual embarrassment. Look at the two of us, right? Strangers on a train, casually beating one another by accident! “Hi there!” I smiled again, louder this time. “I said, I’m sorry!”
Her eyes locked with mine. They were prickling with rage. I don’t know that I’ve ever been looked at that way before. Kick. Kick. Kick. She didn’t stop, and even if I hadn’t been frozen in alternately amused and horrified bewilderment, there was no room for me to move. Kick, kick, kick. What was going on? Ha! Wait. Seriously though, what was going on. Ha! Seriously?
We remained in our positions staring into each other’s eyes until my transfer at Union Station, and she kicked me and kicked me and kicked me.
“Sheesh. Can you believe it?” I’d say to a friend on the phone that night, wandering the pier. The breeze was cool and good, couples leaned into one another and pointed, and Manhattan glittered across the river like a movie set. I felt safe and happy here, seating myself on the floor of the dock, talking to him. I stretched my bare legs out in front of me, pressed my face against the guardrail. “She didn’t look crazy otherwise. I mean, she was just another professional, leaving work, and also hating me a lot. I really just did not see that coming.”
He probably said something he often says. “What the crap, Adrianne.”
We would laugh about it, we would laugh together, everything would feel fixed.
That night I would dream I was chasing after the trolley in Minneapolis, all Goodbar red and yellow, symbol of childhood special occasion. In the dream I was a very childlike adult — draped in a green oversized poncho and running in the pouring rain, watching my sneakers hit the grass, arms airplaning at my sides for balance. I reached the trolley just in time, but it started to pull away then, cheerfully choo chooing forward. I ran until I was alongside the car. I grasped for the conductor’s arm. “Could you stop please?” I cried into the window. “Please? Stop? Can I get on? It’s pouring out, I need to get home!” He turned to me with narrowed eyes.
He told me I looked like shit. He told me I needed to get my hair fixed, do something about those roots, don’t I own a hair dryer? “It’s been raining,” I responded, confused. He said it didn’t matter. He said he could tell the East Coast had changed me, that I wasn’t welcome here any more.
I stopped running. I watched the trolley pull away, until it had disappeared.
Pictured: the park at the pier, midnight.