I see many things riding the New York subway.
There’s the guy panhandling in three different languages accommodating the tourist crowd. The gypsy guitar players who seranade you in-between stops. School groups pinned together like paper dolls en route to The Statue of Liberty, all more or less staples of train life.
But every now and then there’s a Hallmark moment to be had you don’t see too often.
It was early, before 7, when I nestle in a seat surrounded by hard hats and hotel workers. Down the car, across the way is a big lump, as if someone left a huge black trash bag abandoned on the seat. After donning my specs, I see it move, realizing someone is beneath it.
Suddenly a little cream-colored head pops out bundled in a bright red turtleneck under a kelly green parka. A second later a larger version joins him. The older one, around 15, allows the 7, no more than 8 year-old, to use him and his overcoat as a big comforter.
What strikes me most is the affection they clearly have for each other. The young one, hugging like his arms were around a big bear, the elder, gently holding him.
Why are they so tired, I wonder, covertly watching. The book bags piled as pillows suggest they’re going to school, siblings in snoozy flight.
When I get up to leave, I stand by them not planning to engage, when the little one opens his sleepy eyes, looks directly into mine and says, “He’s my brother.”
I smile. “Take care of him,” I say, “and what ever you do, don’t miss your stop.”
He then disappears back under his, what I can only call, fort of love.