old man is dressed in black — black suit, black shoes, black socks. White shirt, black tie. Black fedora.
sneaks a peek, sees the way the old man is dressed. Must save trouble
picking out your clothes in the morning, he thinks.
man dressed in black on a seat near the door.
more stops. At Avenue I a gaggle of high-school students clatters onto the car.
Boys, a few girls. Black, white,
again, old man, shalom,” says a boy cheerfully to the old man in black.
ain’t a Jew,” says the old man loudly. “I got a black hat. But I ain’t a Jew.”
funny,” says the boy, “you look Jewish.” The kids all laugh.
old man stares straight ahead and doesn’t say anything.
kids are talking loudly.
a pain in the ass,” says one. “Hamlet rehearsal, plus I
still got football practice. To play or
not to play, that’s the fucking question.”
train rumbles through a small cemetery, Jewish on the left, Christian on the
at that shit,” says one of the boys. “All them dead
people. What’s it even mean to be alive?”
on how you define alive,” says one of the girls.
and then you die,” says the first boy.
that shit,” says another boy. “Grass is alive, trees are alive, fuckin’ bacteria are alive.”
asks a different girl.
viruses,” says the boy. “They’re only alive if something else is.”
been in that cemetery,” says the first girl, looking. “One side’s Jewish, other
side’s Christian. What the fuck’s that about?”
want your sister rotting next to a Jew,” says the second boy.
train pulls into the Church Avenue station. The old man in the black hat stands
up, moves stiffly to the door, mouth a slash of disapproval, turns toward the
parents should be ashamed of you,” the old man tells them. “Toilet
mouths. Such language.”
kids all look up in surprise.
respect,” says the old man. “Ignorant, all of you.”
do you want?” says a boy. “We’re fuckin’ villagers. Except our village is in a big city.”
says a girl. “We never leave our village. What the fuck do we know?”
just speak our tribal language,” says a boy.
don’t know shit about the outside world,” says another boy.
people leave our village,” says a girl, “and never fuckin’
old man stares at them. The train stops and the doors slide open. The old man
steps out onto the platform, carefully, carefully.
old man,” says a boy.
ain’t Jewish!” shouts the old man.
doors slide closed and the train pulls away, heading for Manhattan.