Sometime before quitting my last job in the city, I moved and started commuting in by train. Now, you have to understand that traveling through Penn Station destroys any faith you have in humanity. If you want to know what will happen to this country if everything goes to shit, you just have to be in Penn Station when a train is fifteen minutes late.
I once got in a fight with a guy who was harassing a woman after he held a door for her and she didn’t respond by giving him a blowjob.
I once knocked a middle aged woman to the ground because she followed me for 10 meters shoving me.
Numerous times I had to shield small children from a crush of people.
One of the people who took the same train I did was Phil. Phil was a runner. I fucking hated runners. Runners are the people who would set off for the doors to the tracks at lightning speed when the track was announced. Runners are people who would stand in the vestibule of the train for twenty minutes before their station so they could be the first ones out of the door.
I saw him every day and sort of hated him.
One day on the train, I got up at the stop before mine and saw a briefcase sitting by the door. That was commuter code for “I got off of the train to get out of people’s way, but I’m coming back to this spot.” I stood there in the door and Phil got back in, and we spent the next ten minutes pressed up against each other, glaring at each other.
Phil was about 60, overweight, and bald. I hated him. He just seemed like a pushy fuck.
I don’t remember how, but during a delay one day, I ended up talking to him. We became friends.
He was fixing up a Town Car for his father.
Phil was a doorman and from Brooklyn, and you could tell from his accent and his admirable use of profanity. He had a lot of stories about drug use and partying in New York and the ‘70s, which were amazing.
Phil was also gay. He was married and after he got married, he and his husband moved out to the suburbs.
One time someone called him a “fat fucking fag” while getting off of the train. I went ballistic and was ready to kill that son-of-a-bitch, but Phil held me back while I let loose a lifetime’s worth of invective.
For a kid from Brooklyn, he seemed to really embrace suburban life. Barbecues with neighbors, and so on. They went of cruises a lot, and he always had a lot of photos. Cruises seem like hell to me, but I could understand their appeal, especially as told by Frank, who wanted to be able to travel with his husband without running into problems.
At some point, I started taking a different train and didn’t see him for a few weeks.
One morning I saw him on the train and asked him how things were going. He told me that his husband had died suddenly from a heart attack a month or two before. I’ve never seen a more broken person in my life.
By that time, I had already intended to leave my job, but for the next two weeks, I avoided any chance of seeing him, because I just couldn’t take seeing someone that destroyed.