UPON READING THAT THE LONG ISLAND RAILROAD HAS BANNED
ALCOHOL ON LATE-NIGHT WEEKEND TRAINS
It's to discourage rowdiness, say the bath-towel-sized
pages of The New York Times. I never learned to tuck
them into neat packets for easy perusal, like the
experienced commuter I pretended to be at 19, nightly
clumping my platform shoes to a chrome and steel
drinks cart cinematic as the rest of Grand Central.
A uniformed bartender held out the gin and tonic
he knew I'd order. I stuck The Post—folded once—
under my arm and opened my purse to pay him.
Then: enough Watergate to get out of the station's
reassuring black antiquity, and Harlem with its
yellow window lights and purple air. After that,
the conductor's call, and the response of the train's
doors sliding open: Highbridge, Morris Heights,
Spuyten Duyvil. My seat always on the river side.
Utterly clear ice cubes, juniper, the bitter-sweet fizz
of the drink, a dark green single slice of lime. News
on my lap, a barge and tug's red lights quivering
on the Hudson. Me, reading comics and legally
drinking gin! I wanted to own that ride the way
the four men across from me did, their constant
hands of cards fanned out like peacocks' tails.
Many things seemed possible, but all I wanted was
more than a receptionist's many-buttoned phone
in the shadowless office: my slow, easy work. More
than the quick walk back uphill to my parents' house
in the always-breeze off the water—on streets too dark,
too soothing and familiar for anything to really begin.
Christine Potter lives in a very old house in the Hudson River Valley with two cantankerous tom cats and her organist/choir director husband, Ken. Her two collections of poetry, Zero Degrees at First Light (2006) and Sheltering In Place (2013) are available at Amazon and other online retailers. She is also den mother to a free-form rock and roll internet radio station, listenable-to here.