By Jackie DeLaCruz
It wasn’t the highest paying job in the world, but it gave me a chance to be near the young’uns. Oh I know some thought I was just wasting my time but I just couldn’t help myself. Look at them. All gawky and pimply and gangly and sometimes ready to burn down the world for no reason at all. You just kinda had to feel sorry for them. Well. Almost all of them. They rarely noticed me, but I definitely kept my eye on them.
Through the years they came and they went. Some spoke. Some were polite. Some didn’t even know I was alive inside my four-by-four booth. Some stepped up to my window with the confidence of royal blood and some stepped up bleeding. Oh not too much. Sometimes much. But that never scared me or held me back from reaching out. Company rules say that I can’t tell them which ticket to buy but, on more than one occasion, I slightly suggested. Just a little nudge.
Take Lisa for instance. Shyest little thing you ever could meet. Her voice was barely more than a whisper. She wanted to get to her destination without having to interact with anybody. She always asked for an express ticket but I would slide her a ticket that added one stop before hers: The New York City Main Library. First time, she attempted to change the ticket. Letting me know politely that she needed an express ticket. I just told her to make this one little stop. Go in and check the place out. From that first time, she was hooked. Was on a mission to read every damn book in there!
Then there was Tony. All brawn and hormones and ready to rip out of his skin. Now that was a big boy that Tony. He would slam his money on my counter and grunt. “Excuse me” I said. “One way ticket to hell lady” he said. I told him we currently don’t run no train to that particular station. Instead, I gave him a ticket to the downtown community center for Elders. It was just three stops away. I told him they needed a big boy like him to help move heavy things around. Next time I saw him it was with that lovely Grandma Winston. He was helping her with her walking chair. Basket full of groceries and she was leaning on one of his strong arms. She would have a safe ride home tonight.
Tabitha was a beauty. Her hair was always immaculately brushed. Piled high on her head. Those lips could not hold one more ounce of that ruby red lipstick. She would always wear those big ass hoops that New York girls wear. Her shirts were always a bit too tight or those damn buttons seem not to work from her neck down to her cleavage. She wore her skirts and pants low, low on her waist. And of course, she always walked on high heels…hooker shoes. All the men noticed, and she noticed they noticed. I noticed too. Noticed that she was barely fourteen years old. She would purchase a ticket to the Hell’s Kitchen trainstop but I would always slip a transfer to the NYU Young Women Leaders of Tomorrow. It’s a luncheon they have every Tuesday for young girls. Mentors. Networking. Scholarships. She would always take the ticket and wink at me. She never let on whether she ever attended the luncheons or not.
I never really knew what ever happened to any of those young people. Folks kept on telling me they were ungrateful, those young punks. They aren’t gonna use those transfers, they would say. They’re just gonna sell them and do who knows what with that money. I didn’t care. It was not my job to force or cajole. I didn’t want to be a nudnik. I wanted to help. In my own way. I’m still here in my four-by-four booth. Still selling metro tickets. I just keep the faith that maybe, maybe one of those transfers or tickets with an added stop can make a difference. But. One never knows, does one?