September 20, 2007
Very late last night I found myself in the City Hall subway stop with 8 other stragglers waiting for a non-existent R train. We were all spread out across the platform, all standing, but after half an hour everyone had migrated to the benches and we were all sitting in a row. Nobody had anything to read, cellphone service wasn't working, and most unusually, no one was attached to an ipod.
After a few minutes a very tall girl with long brown hair who I would later learn was a Parsons design student, broke social convention, turned to her fellow benchmates, and said, "My God, wasn't today beautiful." At first she just got a few quiet affirmations,"yeah, gorgeous", "best day yet" etc, but then a young woman in a business suit again broke social convention and revealed personal information: "It was so nice, when I woke up I decided I didn't want to feel miserable about anything, and broke up with my boyfriend. I ditched him at 7:30 in the morning. He didn't know what hit him." This revelation shattered the dam of silence and soon the entire group: a couple from Denmark, the Parsons student, the businesswoman, a somewhat scruffy writer named Mike, a lady carrying a violin, and a young tough-looking couple from Coney Island were all chatting. In short order we covered breakups, design books, Facebook, muggings (The Danish couple were surprised to learn none of us had been violently mugged...), and Thai food in Brooklyn. Another half hour passed. Finally Mike, said, "screw the train, let's walk, my car is on the other side and I can take some of you home." We immediately lost the Coney Island couple ("That's foolish man. Foolish.") but everyone else was on board. The violin woman slipped out of her heels into white tennis shoes and we headed out into the night.
Midnight walks across the Brooklyn Bridge are always beautiful, but last night, particularly so: a half moon hung low in the sky, the lower deck of the bridge was covered in little red flares which gave everything an otherworldly light, and the air was velvety cool. Perfect walking weather. Except for Mike who apparently walks the bridge regularly, and myself, for most of our group this was a new experience. "The only time I've ever walked across was going home on 9/11", said the businesswoman, "It was my first week on the job, my first week in New York."
The Parsons girl who had not known the bridge was walkable looked out over the water towards the city, "I was 13 on 9/11. Afterwards my weird reaction was that I wanted to move to New York. From then on, I knew I would end up here." Mike, who had been deep in conversation with the Parsons girl beforehand was startled. "You were 13? My God." He crossed himself.
At the second tower we lost the Danish tourists. They had been headed to the Fulton Ferry Landing and decided the view from down below couldn't be better than the view from the bridge itself. They said no goodbyes, and as we walked away they practically lunged for each other and began making out. "Name the kid Brooklyn," Mike called out after them. The conversation turned to PDAs. Mike felt they were unavoidable. The Parsons girl pled guilty. The businesswoman said, "I've never been with anyone that made me want to kiss them outside," and the violin lady just giggled.
On the other side of the bridge we all headed up Henry Street in silence into Brooklyn Heights where we found Mike's car am old Volvo. "I can walk," I said, I'm pretty close." "Me too," said the businesswoman. Mike insisted. "
It's more fun if everybody goes," said the violin woman who had hadn't said much since leaving Manhattan. We bundled into the car and rolled down the windows. "Such a pefect night," said the businesswoman sticking her hand outside. " A few minutes later we dropped her off. "Thanks," she said, "that was fun."
"You make me feel like we were on a date," Mike answered.
"Hey, I'm available now," she smiled, "and you know where I live."
We drove off leaving her waving on the curb. "I don't think she's over her boyfriend yet," noted the Parsons girl.
"No way," said Mike, she's much too happy. Can't be real."
"Nope," chimed in the violin woman.
I was the next to be dropped off. "We'll look you up on the web," everyone said. "Just google raul", I replied. We waved goodbye and I wondered what observations would be made about me when I was out of earshot. I smiled and watched the Volvo headed down Henry towards Cobble Hill marveling at how little takes to transform a group of tired grumpy New Yorkers into friends if only for the span of the Brooklyn Bridge.