I had to work late so here I am waiting for the train to Penn at three in the morning. I am the only one on the platform. I wonder if anyone will even take my ticket.
As I enter a car I kick a dirty coffee cup out of the way. A trickle of beer from an overturned can runs the length of the floor. The bathroom reeks so I rush by into the next car. It’s filthy. Trash covers the floor and seats but at least the air smells okay.
I find a seat by a window and throw my coat on the overhead rack. I figure I’ll take a short nap. I close my eyes. A noise wakes me. I hear footsteps dragging along the floor. I turn and see a homeless lady sit across the aisle from me. Damn, I just want some peace and quiet.
“Sir, got any spare change?” she said.
I look at her and stiffen in my seat. She looks like one of those mummies you see in National Geographic. Waxy skin is drawn tight over sharp bones surrounding empty, cold eyes.
“Well, I ain’t got all night,” she said. She leans toward me and I smell the alcohol on her breath.
I don’t know what to do. If I give her something will she leave me alone? Probably not. Hey, she’s probably starving, give her a break. But she’ll just use it buy crack or whatever drug she is high on. I reach into my pocket and pull out loose change and drop it into her outstretched palm.
“Shit, that’s all you got?” she said.
“Sorry,” I said. I pull out my earbuds, plug them in my phone and turn on some music.
It happens so fast I can’t believe it. The sharp blades of a pair of scissors press against my neck. The woman hisses at me. “Give me your wallet now muther fucker,” she said.
I tremble and sit stunned, not sure what to do. She has a crazed look in her eyes. I have no doubt that she will kill me. Even if I give her my wallet, she’ll probably cut me anyway.
“Look, I’m sorry. I can’t get my wallet like this. I indicate the blade at my throat. I need to stand up to get it,” I said.
She presses the shears into my skin and draws blood. “I don’t trust you,” she said.
“Please, I promise,” I said. “Let me up and you can have everything.”
“You better not be playing,” she said. “I’ll kill you for sure.”
She stands over me poised with the scissors. “Well, get the damn thing,” she said.
I know that I might only have one chance. I grab my backpack and shove it at the hand with the scissors. At the same time I leap to my feet and run down the aisle. I hear her screech in anger behind me.
“I will cut your liver out white boy,” she said.
I make it into the next car, not daring to look back. I’ve got to find a conductor. The train moves slowly, clicking and squealing over the tracks. I sneak a look back and I see the woman weaving from side to side, shaking her fist in my direction. I swear I can see her eyes following me even from this distance. I continue to run.
I realize that I left my coat on the rack above. Damn, it’s freezing out. Well, it’s better than resting on a slab in the morgue.
I can’t believe it, every car is empty. I don’t know what to do. The train approaches a stop. I know that the station is locked up for the night. At this hour no one will be there, not even the psychotic cab drivers. Maybe I should get off and find a cop. Who am I kidding? I wouldn’t know where to go. Should I stay on the train all the way to Penn station? But what if she follows me? Eventually I’ll reach the last car. What happens then?
I decide to take a chance and get off at the next station. The train screeches to a halt and the doors open. I lean out and look both ways. I don’t see a soul on the platform. There is no way she would get off here since it is a lily white suburb. I step onto the platform and run to the dark station. I hear the sound of the doors closing and the train starts to move. I watch the windows in the hope that I will see her. Once I know where she is I can relax.
The cars go by and I don’t see anyone through the windows. My shoulders drop and I heave a sigh of relief. I am shivering from the cold but I can use my phone to call a cab. Maybe I can find a place to get a cup of coffee and wait for the next train. I better call the guys and tell them I’m going to be late.
I feel a sharp pain in my neck and warm liquid flows down into my shirt. My field of vision narrows and I feel myself falling.