I miss riding the trains. When I first moved to New York City, sometimes I’d take the long way and ride the trains simply to learn their routes. There’s a freedom in traveling aimless with nothing but time to spare. One of my favorite subway routes was taking the subway from Brooklyn to Harlem. On the L train alone I’d encounter many characters. Each character personified a unique tale. Sometimes I’d think about how awe-inspiring it was that though so many characters were on the same train at the same time, we were all traveling on different journeys, ultimately arriving at different destinations.
From the L train I’d transfer at 14th Street and 8th Ave to an uptown-bound train on the Blue Line to get to Harlem. Each train on the line was like it’s own playhouse, and each car of that playhouse was it’s own stage, and each stage of that car belonged to very talented characters all about to burst with stories to be told. Some of the most interesting New Yorkers frequented 14th Street, between Union Square and 8th Ave. There were so many performers in full costume, ready, willing and able to put on one-of-a-kind shows. Most characters performed for survival and few if any performed for entertainment purposes alone. You’d think some could eat ambition as much as they were relentless in their pursuits for happiness. Day after day, night after night, they’d attempt any attention-grabbing strategy to temporarily satisfy a hunger that would last even after eating food.
When I’d ride the Blue Line from Brooklyn to Harlem, my choice of which vessel I’d board would determine who and what I might encounter during my course. If I chose to ride the A train I’d see the all-too-familiar face of the man who sold both bootleg DVD’s and spiked punch from his backpack. I may also hear a few threats and outbursts, or see someone get into a brawl, which was the norm. If I chose to ride the E train I’d see a little of every kind of character, bound for the Upper West Side or Queens, of every color and ethnic origin. If I chose to ride the C train I’d see some of what I may see on the A, but the C train tends to have a mind of its own so I’d probably seldom see the C anyway.
Those train routes would eventually come to an end, then regroup and reroute going the opposite way. Subway routes appear to be straightforward, and even when they curve its to a safe degree. One moment I was riding the train from Brooklyn to Harlem and the next moment I was going 75 miles an hour on a South Texas highway, with an ice-cold sweet-tea in one hand and a loaded taco in my lap. I was on my way to rescue a Queen who needed a boost of confidence along her route Underground. I was whizzing by on the highway in the bright sun on my way to see the Queen, Underground, who is learning how to assertively wear her crown. For so long her King has led the way, but her King’s ability to keep his kingdom thriving is dwindling.
The Queen struggles with this eventual transfer of power. The King’s zest for life is diminishing and she fears losing her kingdom. I watch her each day as she wrestles with the idea of having to dominantly rule Underground. Her crown falls with her heart when the King is in pain, and slants with her frown when the King is suffering. What hurts her even more is her only masculine seed has no concern for preparing to be a King. The unworldly jester has yet to even find his crown, let alone begin to know how to rule Underground.
I watch her daily like I did the many characters on the trains, trying to move between closed doors at times, in hopes to make a way. She hopes to transcend this place and be rerouted to a higher realm. She’s limited Underground, struggling to maneuver through the maze of a mixed-up kingdom. All vessels have gone haywire, and she doesn’t have the heart to suddenly reroute her path. Ideally, any dead-end journeys would come to an end, regroup, then reroute going the opposite way. But here and now, its not that way. I watch as she anxiously adjusts and readjusts her crown. Nerves all over, overwhelm her.
If only she can be rerouted as easily as the trains. Then she could transfer from one vessel to another, more certain. I watch as she salvages every bit of light she can find, Underground. I help her as much as I could in finding her freedom-bound railroad. In the words of August Wilson, ‘One can never transcend themselves’. So I’m hoping that she’ll soon find the royal strength in herself. There’s a freedom in traveling aimless with nothing but time to spare. The Queen and I, though in the same place at the same time, are sharing a journey now, but are ultimately arriving at different destinations. I wait to board the next train from Underground.
~~~ Dr. Antigua Tobago, Storyteller/artist Copyright 3/2017