How the D-Train Saved My Life One Morning




My car had a flat & my heart was still in flutter
from the night before. A girl dumped me
over lack of shared spaces. Ain't life a bitch.
But priorities. I needed to get to work. So I scram
to the D-train to make uptown in a flash. Inside,
I hold on to metal for dear life and sit down
before her. She's old, can pass for someone's
disenfranchised grandmother, the flyaway hairs,
slop of lipstick, long dress with strings
hanging like faded memories, not even
Salvation Army potential. A roar of metallic teeth, we buck,
the train stops at Alphabet Hell. There's another name
for the street, but my memory sometimes derails.
So I'm back to the woman. Eyeing her like an
old tv show my parents wouldn't let me watch.
There's something about her eyes, hazel side
of blue, that sparkling quality that speaks
bittersweet and what lies for miles in either
direction. The train switches. I'm almost
in her lap. Something inside me snaps a finger.
We're now each other's mirror.
ExcusemeIsay, aren't you that actress, Melena
Marples? I feel like an impulsive jerk. But
Melena was my mother's favorite topic of conversation,
her vote for worst actress of 1959, a movie
that wouldn't even make a soap opera. Melena,
an all-American beauty, played the other girl
for a much older businessman who was scarred
by Pork Chop Hill. The old woman smiles at me
with her eyes. "My name isn't Melena Marples,"
she says as if reading a nursery rhyme.
"Melena Marples died sometime ago." But I know
for a fact, as if facts can sometimes be true,
that Melena Marples is still alive somewhere
in lower Bronx. "May I have Melena's autograph?"
I say, my heart a frog and my throat a pond.
"My mother loved you in Cecilia's Child."
The subway lurches and my wallet falls from my
hands. The old siren beats me to it, fumbling
to get at it. She hands me the wallet, this look
on her face that means kismet or something like.
I take out my business card and ask her to
sign the back in her Hollywood name. I hand her
an engraved pen, which I only carry to impress
clients. The train stops at 14th street. We shake
hands and she says "It's been a pleasure. I always
feel richer whenever I meet someone who remembered
me when I wasn't poor. Fame only lasts a moment."
She gets off. A slight limp to her gait. I try
to track her but she disappears in a crowd of
Monday Morning rushers. I willow-wonder: Where is it
she has to go? I take the piece of paper, which
is now all I have of her and slip it into
the wallet. Twenty bucks is missing. I feel
so much richer.



- Kyle Hemming