The subway steps lead you out to your stop, to a radical culture clash.
The scene: Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. Wednesday 9:15pm.
The top of the stairs leading to the Queens-bound A train have a curious scent, a mixture of car exhaust, underground dankness (which I’m sure will only improve as summer temperatures rise), and cheap tomato sauce and rubber cheese from the $1 pizza place on the corner. A young girl, about 4 years old with braids and plastic barrettes, climbed the stairs wearily and slowly in a way that suggested a child’s dramatically imagined exhaustion, her mother calling from the top of the stairs with exasperation: “Hurry up!” Three old men in various stages of anachronistic winter apparel argued loudly at the top of the stairs. Cars honked, loud shrieking laughter carried down the street, and irritated commuters huffed as they poured out of the subway, just wanting to get home.
The corner was a tide pool of a harried city community, a small pocket of Bed-Stuy that people moved through hurriedly and brusquely. Yet despite trying to stay caught in the flow of the everyday, earbuds in place and book in hand, two young Orthodox Jews approached me - black dress and hat, twisted payot and all. “Pardon me, but do you happen to be Jewish?”
Indeed, I do not. But I do happen to enjoy Brooklyn.