By Tenzin McGrupp © 2005
I stared at a picture of Lucy Nolan, one of the morning anchors from Good Day New York, for an entire stop. I was lost inside my mind when a large white man wearing a fur coat sat down. I've seen plenty of women wearing fur coats in the city, but that was my first glimpse of a man in pelts. His features suggested that he was Eastern European. He had not shaved in several days and his left arm was in a cast.
Why the hell was a Ukrainian guy with busted arm and a fur coat riding the subway?
I observed his every move while he looked off in the distance. I took note of the details of his appearance, especially the fake gold bracelet on his right wrist and the equally cheap watch. He pathetically tried to pass off a pair of knockoff Bruno Mali's as his shoes. His cast was poorly put together; maybe done by a quack in the back room of a Mafia doctor's office?
Over the last few months, I had been practicing my poker face on the subway. Normally when I made eye contact with a random commuter, I automatically looked away in a non-confrontational survival reaction, something I had picked up over the years. I pretended not to pay attention, yet remained aware of everything and carefully avoided eye contact with the masses. I waited for him to turn his attention to me as I wondered if I had the balls to stare him down. I decided against it. The broken arm made me suspicious. Plus I didn't want to have to fight a guy twice my size with a plaster cast that could be used as a weapon.
The thug with the fur coat got off and a young woman with the cowboy boots walked into the car. I didn't get to see her face, just her light brown boots. She got lost in the shuffle as the other passengers at Times Square scurried inside. She sat down across from me, and her face was obstructed by a couple of suits who stood in between us. When they exited at Penn Station, I caught my first glimpse of her. A light purple wool hat sat on top of her shoulder length brown hair with a matching scarf elegantly tied around her neck. She listened to a CD player. It was refreshing to be on an iPodless train. My attention focused on her faded brown boots. She really looked out of place, but not giving off that "Aw! Shucks!!" fresh tourist vibe, which folks from Iowa emanate the second they step off the plane from Des Moines.
She glanced off to her right at an advertisement for the New School. I clocked her for a good two minutes without her noticing my stalkerish glances. When she caught me looking at her, my eyes fixated on the cowgirl for the entire time she stared back. Instead of flinching, I held my ground for twenty seconds. She eventually gave in and looked away first. She stood up, flashed a momentary smile in my direction and exited as I took a mental photograph of her weathered boots.
Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.