I got on the train in Hackensack. It rolled toward Secaucus through the Meadowlands. The sun ignited sparkles on the surface of the reed-filled water. One of the gleams leaped from the water to a neighboring train track. I watched it skate along the rail.
I planned to transfer to a New York-bound train in Secaucus. I had been taking an acting class. Every week I rode an elevator to the 32nd floor of an aging Midtown building where the sound of sirens from the police station below drowned out our over-rehearsed takes on Shakespeare.
I watched the gleam accompany my train eastward before it plunged into a scrub-covered slice of rail. Just then the door at the front of my car opened and the gleam walked in. The living being of light probed each row of seats as it proceeded down the aisle.
The gleam stopped at the seat next to me, where I had rested my bag. I prefered to sit alone. People always try to talk to me on the train. One man, when I told him I was struggling to find work as an actor, tried to convince me to become a stock broker. He told me I would only have to pass a test. It was easy, he said. He gave me his business card and made me promise to call.
I looked at the gleam. It did not seem like it carried a business card. I moved my bag. The gleam folded itself into the seat. A moment passed and then, “So, where are you headed?”
He—the gleam sounded like a man—spoke in a high, clear voice. I shielded my eyes as I turned and answered.
“Me too,” he said. “I’m tired of Jersey.”
I bash Jersey as much as anyone, but I always curl into a defensive ball when I hear others do the same.
“What’s wrong with Jersey?” I asked.
“It’s boring,” he said. “I’m tired of lingering in the marshes, watching the trains go by.”
“But the city can be tough,” I said. “The buildings cast long shadows.”
He shook his head and the light danced on the backs of the seats in front of us.
“I can live in the tall parts of the glass towers,” he said. “I can watch all the people live and work and create and die.”
We were quiet for a while after that. The train rattled past the low-lying towns on either side of the track.
“I’d like to live there too,” I said, breaking the silence just as the train passed under a bridge. When it re-emerged from the shadows, the gleam was gone.
After I disembarked I jostled past the crowds on the stairs leading to the sidewalk until I gained the open air. The train had been delayed and I was running late for my class. As I crossed Seventh Avenue, I thought I saw a sparkle glance off a high corner window. But when I stepped backward into the street for another look, I couldn’t get the light to catch the same way.