Thirty-two of us trudged through the brown snow of the unfamiliar New York streets. That morning I knew I was about to go on an adventure. I had never ridden in a subway before. I held my friends hand, a skinny boy with sarcastic humor, as I walked down into the concrete jungle. There was a whole other world below the surface. The group swiped their Metro cards and glided past the counter. My card however, refused to work. The world around me was moving fast but I was stuck. Even today there are times when I feel like everyone is moving in and out of the subway and I’m stuck. At that moment I had no clue what to do. “Will I be stuck here underground?” in my panic I could barely hear Larry, our New York tour guide, yelling, ‘”ust go, Quick! Go underneath!” Coming up I realized no one cared that I had snuck in. My little act of civil disobedience didn’t matter.
The system was filled with people from every nation. The walls were covered in graffiti and ads for TV shows that I had watched. I felt a connection to the people with whom I seemed to have nothing in common. What better to bring us all together but television? It seemed to vanish when I looked into the eyes of the locals. People walked fiercely with a purpose; no one seemed to care about the other.
A scraggly old man stood beside us as we awaited the subway. He didn’t seem to be waiting or anticipating the coming train he just stood there as if it were his home, like we were infringing on his turf. Anna Clair, a young slender girl, walked to the meeting point and the old man began to talk about her. The man carried a conversation with the concrete below, telling the sticky ground of her beauty. Her mother quickly came behind, and I watched as the man told the pillar of their likeness.
“I can’t believe it.” He rambled, “The girl she is young and she is beautiful, and her mother just as beautiful, they look just alike. It’s a conspiracy.'” I suppose the pillar nodded in agreement, because the man would pause, listen, and keep talking. When the two were in earshot they quickly moved away, but I couldn’t stop listening.
Then the subway zipped by like a lion coming out of its den. I had imagined getting onto the school bus in a single file line, but when the doors opened people rushed off and our mass trampled on. We pushed and shoved and gathered our bunch into a single subway car. I looked around at the graffiti, and the dirt when the subway took off. The force pushed me into the person behind me who, luckily, was from my group.
As I had always done, I seemed to venture away from group to see what I could see. I quickly noticed that we were on the ‘Q’ train. Orange background and black Q reminded me of the sign for my favorite musical ‘Avenue Q’ so I took a picture. I didn’t, however, notice the three boys below the sign.
“Hey you takin’ our picture?” one of the boys in sweats asked me.
“No, the sign I was taking a picture of the sign.” I tried to explain. The boy on the right laughed, breaking his stern facade.
“You want our picture?'”they asked.
“Could I?'” They smiled when I snapped their picture. When the boy near me smiled I took comfort in the fact that he looked like Theo Huxtable from The Cosby Show. We talked about the differences in our daily lives. During the exchange I could feel Scott, a big brother figure in our group, pull my backpack towards him, away from danger. I knew he would always protect me but I assured him that I was okay. The train stopped in a jolt, and I smashed into Ryan almost pushing him to the ground, we had arrived.
I still remember every person on the subway. I realize more than ever that the world is bigger than my small country town. Maybe my mountains of problems are only molehills in the scheme of the world. Maybe I will never learn about myself until I learn about other people. That ride jolted my need for adventure. The subway was fast, but I want to go faster.
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