On Tuesday night, I followed a family through the underground hallway between 6th and 7th Avenues and down the steps to the L train. The mom, dad and son headed to Brooklyn bundled in beefy coats and mittens and the kid kept his fur-lined hood over his head though we were about to enter a steamy train. As we waited for the same car, I noticed the kid wore a blue scarf around his neck, cinched over his coat and tied into a thick knot behind his head. The New York Red Bulls logo poked out of the wad of fabric.
When we got in the car, dad and the kid play-fought for the seat next to mom. The kid boxed out dad each time he tried to sit down. A woman sitting nearby got annoyed and moved further down the car. Don’t worry about her.
The kid seemed embarrassed, but maybe I’m projecting how I would have felt at nine. He finally let his dad sit down between him and mom as the train started moving.
The three had dark features and round faces. They spoke with undetermined accents so that they might have been Eastern European. Maybe from the Middle East.
The car filled at Union Square and the mass of commuters obstructed my view of the family from my spot in the doorway. I started reading and I forgot about them until the car emptied at Bedford Ave. and the family reemerged as a sleeping mound of coats.
They slumped on top of each other in their hoods, hats and mittens. Kid on dad. Dad on mom. Mom on dad. The kid had loosened his choker and freed the Red Bull insignia.
What had they done, I wondered, that made them all so tired at 8:30 on a school night? Ten stops later, when I got off the train, they still hadn’t stirred.