On the train back from New Haven to New York, I sit on a seat too hard and try to make as many phone calls as possible. B agrees to buy tickets for a Broadway show and I plan in my head how to get from Grand Central to Times Square as quickly as possible. I have 15 minutes. I wonder if I’m allowed such a big bag in the theatre. A man approaches the conductor, repeats softly he needs to ask him something. Finally in a small voice asks if he can be allowed to get off at the next stop. The conductor nods, ‘only this once,’ but you can see he’s done it a thousand times before. I move over to a soft seat. A man, young, red checkered shirt sitting opposite me, works in a factory in Connecticut, asks me where I’m from. Can’t figure out my race, he says and when I reply, asks simple questions about India and I think, here I am the exotic idea of the white man and so I try to use the opportunity to tell him a little about Islam because he hasn’t met a Muslim before and he seems surprised at how I am so normal. And I am thinking I am talking to someone who has grown up in a small town watching Fox News. He says he is coming to the (big) city to have fun with some mates – go bar hopping – have fun and I am thinking I am sitting in a sitcom – I am sitting in a TV sitcom on a train and it is so strange. I don’t give him my right number. I’m not sure why. I could use the opportunity to teach him something about the rest of the world but it seems too tiring.
I find the line from Grand Central straight to Times Square. Run up the stairs. Cross the street in Times Square with my giant backpack and that’s when the woman in the high heels swears me and I angry, shout back at her and I see B and we run into the theatre and I push my bag under a seat and the curtains open and it is beautiful. It is beautiful.
And I think that morning I was in Boston walking around Harvard and then I was in New Haven that afternoon and now I’m in NYC watching a Broadway show and I’m thinking, even alone, even alone, this is the best day.