Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Smoke

"I hopped on the 6 train this afternoon after work, in a rush to attend my graduate school class on time. The subway was crowded, as it always is in Lexington, but I found a seat and decided to grade a pile of papers from my ninth grade class, until my stop at 28th street.
I could not find a pen anywhere, so I used a pink marker that I usually write with on the white board, and I began marking papers with check minuses, or check pluses depending on the student.

I think I am very expressive sometimes, or I might have laughed out loud at one moment, because one of my ninth graders titled his pop quiz “ANOTHER QUIZ” in one of his usual sarcastic attempts to complain about the fact that I quiz them every day. The lady sitting in front of me kept staring at me, but in a good way, as if maybe I reminded her of someone she knew, or of the girl she used to be a few decades ago.

And suddenly I heard a voice in the subway, coming from near by, and the voice said “God Bless you!” But I kept to myself, because that is what we all do when we travel in a crowded NYC subway: we just keep to ourselves. But then I heard it again. It came from a black lady who was about to get off at 33 street. “You are a teacher aren’t you? God bless you.” And then, the lady who was sitting in front of me joined in, and mentioned something such as “Yeah! I could tell you are a teacher!” and a couple of other people suddenly stared at me, but in a good way, and the older ladies were smiling.

There I was, holding my pink marker, after another long day of work, crammed inside another crowded NYC subway, getting blessed by a lady, getting the smiles of other ladies as if what I did made some sense to all these people who traveled in the train with me, as if it made sense to everybody else but to me.

There it was, another foggy humid day, no different from all the rest in this city, and yet this incident felt strange and wonderful to me, like when in the middle of the darkest night one finds a lamp shining in a window."