I look around the crowded train carriage and see a lot of tired faces. It is late at night and yet the carriage is unusually full. Compared to this evening on my way to Manhattan not many people are staring into their phones. Maybe they are too tired to do that. One guy sitting in front of me is nodding off. The girl sitting behind me is chatting away to the guy standing in front of her. They tease each other as they flirt but it is a veiled argument about each other’s shortcomings. The Afro Caribbean guy sitting in the corner seat looks fairly fit for his age, but I wonder if he is as his weathered face and crutch tell another story. Did I just see him catch a breath? I think he has breathing problems but is hiding it well underneath the layers of clothes. Maybe years of smoking has finally taken it’s toll. The man talking to the girl has now got a seat next to her. I can hardly hear their words. The girl’s tone changes as she gets excited and in between her raised voice wakes me up from my thoughts. A skinny guy gets in at the next stop and stands next to me. He is listening to music with headphones on. My feet are hurting and I slowly ease one feet off the shoe. I stumble a little when the train jerks to a stop at the next station. The elderly Afro Caribbean guy gets up to leave. The skinny man is standing in front of his seat. He shields the seat in a way that no one else can sit on it and nods at me. I thank him and gratefully sink into the vacant seat.
It’s been a very long day. It started with a trip to Coney Island beach. “When the lifeguards take up their positions on their high seats along Coney Island beach, it marks the beginning of summer”, my brother tells me. My trench coat looks out of place at the beach but I am glad I’m wearing it. The air is cool and the temperature has once again dropped at least ten degrees since yesterday. We walk past the landmarks that set Coney Island aside as one of the famous beaches in the world. Nathan’s restaurant where the yearly hot dog eating contest is held. Their Wall of fame board shows last year’s winners and does a second by second countdown to the next contest. The man and woman who won the competition last year look pretty skinny for someone who managed to gulp down all those hot dogs.
We walk past the fun fair, and find ‘Zoltar’ the star of Tom Hank’s film, Big. I resist putting a dollar into the fortune teller’s machine. I do not wish to wake up in another person’s body in the morning as I do not have enough time to come back and reset myself. We walk along the boardwalk past Cyclone, the giant wooden rollercoaster, which has been given the status of a National historic landmark. Soon we reach Brighton beach and have lunch in one of their Russian restaurants.
I fall asleep on the way back home. In the evening we travel back to Manhattan and have dinner with my niece who is meeting us after work. She is a fully fledged doctor now doing her paediatric residency. She tells me about her vision for the future, working with abused children. “Be a voice for these children, as they cannot do it on their own” she says. A tough speciality which needs a lot of mental courage. Even the small number of cases I have seen or heard about will haunt me forever, so how will it be if you are constantly working with such children, but she is determined. The next generation are proving to be a tough bunch of kids who know exactly what they want and are striving to achieve exactly that. I feel proud and happy and wish her all the very best.