On the train again, forward-facing this time, clad in flip-flops and Capri’s, though shadowed by a former self, blazers with mother-of-pearl buttons, sneakers to navigate the city—this one knew block-by-block shortcuts, charging through revolving doors and marble lobbies—long before security guards monitored every skyscraper, she could turn a ten-minute walk into five.
She accompanied me across the inlaid floors of a rehabbed rail station—pounding down cement steps, folding her arms in the hot subway while waiting to switch lines—then appeared again in the woman who stood with one hooked finger circling the railing, swaying as she read her library book, oblivious to the train’s bucks and squeals.
Above ground a few minutes later, she peered through the door of a pub (still in business!) grinning at the reminder of a late night spent mocking a fake accent—he claimed New Zealand—she maintained New Jersey and toasted victory at last call when he confessed: “Philadelphia.”
Exiting the memory, I slowed the pace, peering up to immaculate brownstones—at the flowering impatience, the trailing vinca tumbling from wrought iron window boxes—dogwoods and pink hydrangeas crowding tiny garden squares enclosed in ornate fences. Up ahead, she looked back at me—keep up, hurry, hurry, but I didn't.
Instead I climbed the stairs, buzzed at the entrance and watched her fade away—striding down the street with all the other young professionals, fingers fondling I-phones and Blackberries, ear buds planted, cutting across traffic—her glazed eyes seeing nothing but the destination—the place at the end of the journey.