Wanda walked up the stairs to the Manhattan bound side of the elevated platform on Kings Highway and McDonald Avenue, in Brooklyn, New York. There was a light snow falling and you could see Coney Island on one end, the Verrazano Bridge in the middle and the New York City skyline on the other end.
Seeing Coney Island reminded her of going for a drive with her family to buy cotton candy. Once in awhile they would go to Luna Park for the day or the beach before the summer crowds and the freaks without a stage would be littered across the boardwalk and the sand. She smiled as assorted memories came to mind, felt a tinge of yearning for those times.
There were a lot of people on the platform waiting on the train; no one wore smiles, most wore hats and coats and they all were in a monday morning haze.
Wanda smiled, it had been some time since she had commuted early in the morning. She was headed to her first day at her new job after three months of searching for a position. She would be paid much less in her new position but it was better than having no destination, day in day out. Plus it was a couple hundred dollars more than the unemployment she had been collecting, so at least she would be able to have a little extra cash here and there.
She was living with her parents on West Street, a block away from the station. She was 26 years old and had seen her dreams bounce onto the side of the road with one careless evening with Bobby, eight years earlier.
The train came crawling into the station and she was glad. It was cold today and being on this elevated platform made it even colder.
As the train came to a stop there was the sound of a man singing, she turned towards the avenue S side of the station and saw a man picking up garbage from the floor and singing a song about “the Lord” saving the world from the non-believers. She just turned away.
When she told her parents about what had happened they were upset but they were supportive.
“Does Bobby know?”
“Yes, he offered to marry me right away.”
“Is that what you want?” Her father asked her.
“I am so confused right now I cannot think.”
“Come on and let’s sit down. You don’t need to make any decisions right now.”
She watched as the train rolled into the Avenue P station. Slow moving F train – you can sense the impatience from the commuters waiting to get on with the day.
After a while she decided that she did not want to marry Bobby but she did want the baby. They decided that she would go to Israel to spend her pregnancy there with her sister, who lived in Jerusalem with her husband and 2 children.
Bay Parkway passes by and she remembers Bobby’s reaction when she told him.
“I am not ready to make a decision on us, Bobby.”
“What about the baby?” He asked.
“I am going to have the baby, our baby.”
In silence they sat together until one of them started to cry. Until they both held on to each other and whispered, “I love yous.”
18th Avenue – a lot of people getting on the train. Snow coming down harder and sticking on the ground below.
She stuck to her decision to have the kid because it didn’t feel right to simply abort it. She knew so many people who had trouble conceiving or keeping the child full term, she felt there was a reason for her to conceive. Stupidity? Carelessness? Maybe, but she wasn’t the only girl to take the chance but she was the only one of her friends to get knocked up. As far as she knew, at least.
Church Avenue and the train is officially crowded. A Chinese parent runs in with her kid wearing his spiderman backpack. She runs to have him sit in an open slot – beating an older man to the space by a second. The older man looks at her and nods his head. She looks away and begins giving her child pieces of a cut up apple.
The year went by quicker than she had imagined. She gave birth a week and a half after her due date, August 23rd to a girl whom she named after Bobby’s mother, Hannah. Bobby had flown in a couple of weeks before the delivery to be there for her. When he proposed for a 3rd time she still politely declined. This time with tears and a kiss.
Fourth Avenue and the snow is coming on down hard now. She checks her phone and her email but there are no messages. She texts her mother to see if Hannah had gotten off to school yet. No response right away. Underground again and Carroll Street comes into view. There must be an issue with the G train because there must be a thousand people waiting to get on. They somehow squeeze in a majority of the people waiting and the train moves on. At Jay Street the train lightens the load and then moves on.
When she gave birth she felt as if she was going to die right then and there. She had been given an epidural, but the pain and the pressure was overwhelming. When the baby came out it was as if a grown person had vacated her body – she could not stop crying and when Bobby cut the cord she knew that she needed to as well.
East Broadway, the first stop in Manhattan.
She thought about the night she spoke with her parents and told her that she was moving back to Brooklyn. Her mother surprised her with an idea. She would take care of Hannah while Wanda went back to school and resumed her life.
“I am not going to deny she is my child.”
“You don’t have to – I am saying leave the responsibility to me for a while; finish school, clear your mind and then you can begin making decisions.”
“Mom, she is my responsibility…it was my carelessness that caused all of this.”
Her mother then said something that would change everything.
“Do not label this girl as a mistake. Do not make her feel that her own existence was an error in judgment. Was it Bobby and your own fault that you got pregnant? Yes. Was it Hannah’s fault that she was born? No. That was a decision you made and her existence is a gift, a blessing that you will understand one day. Always make her feel like she is a blessing to you – the world around her will always be causing her to fall – it’s the gravity supplied by the stupidity of the human beings.”
Delancey Street and the train gets a transfusion, more people exit the train than get on, so there is some breathing space. She looks around and sees an older lady caring for a little girl with a backpack on her back. The lady seems to be 160 years old while the little girl is around 6. A man comes on the train speaking out loud.
“My name is Sonny Payne, I am homeless and I am hungry, if you ain’t got it I can understand ‘cause I ain’t got it too. But if you can spare some change, some food or drink or even a smile, it would be appreciated.” As he walked down the train she heard him saying, “Thank you, God bless” several times. When he got to her, she smiled and gave him a dollar bill.
“Thank you, God bless, beautiful lady.”
Eight years had passed by and Hannah was the most beautiful girl in the world. The love that she felt for her was stronger than she could have imagined. She understood her parents now and she apologized to them very frequently for taking their love for granted.
“You are the child, you are supposed to take us for granted and we are supposed to continue to be there for you forever.” Her father had said to her on many occasions.
A lady began to apply makeup, she was sitting across from her. She applies the base, then staring into a handheld circular mirror and dabs concealer onto the imperfections on her skin. She than applies blush, eyeliner, eyeshadow and then lipstick. Purses her lips, stares in the mirror and she is done. It reminded Wanda of an artist she used to watch in Jerusalem, how she made up her face. In Jerusalem the empty canvas became a painting defined through the eyes of the artist. This lady was already beautiful – Wanda wondered if she was aware of this.
“It’s been eight years Wanda, I have shown you I am a responsible father with Hannah, I have been there for you all along. I want to marry you…” Just last night Bobby had come to drop off Hannah and had plead with Wanda. Wanda smiled at him, rushed her hair from her eyes and put her hand on his face.
“If you love me – give me a little more time.”
She stayed up all night asking herself what it was that kept her from just saying yes; it would solve a lot of issues in their lives. For one thing she wouldn’t have to go to work if she chose not to. Bobby’s family was loaded and they were prepared to pay for the whole wedding, buy them a house and everything. At least that’s what Bobby said. That was her problem. She wanted Bobby to not have to bring up all of the details and even accept any money from his family. But how was that different than her mother helping her with Hannah? Why not get the house, the wedding, the whole fairytale?
West Fourth Street and there is a B train across the platform which causes a large number of people to leave to get on it since the next stop on the B is 34th Street, while the F has 14, 23 and then 34th street. She sits still even though 34th is her stop. She is early, has a seat and is enjoying this time on the train. She laughs when she sees several people get to the B train just in time for the doors to shut in their face. They then turn around and the F-train has already begun to leave.
Her father spoke with her after Bobby left and gave her his advice.
“Do you love him?” He asked.
“Yes, I have always loved him.”
“He has proven himself to be a man and to be devoted to you and Hannah.”
She was silent.
“You need to let him know once and for all how you feel. He hasn’t closed any doors behind him and has been faithful to you all along. He is good person, I like him. But he did not propose to me.”
She laughed and they embraced.
“I am scared.” She whispered into his shoulder as the tears flooded her eyes.
“I know. It’s ok everything will be ok. We love you and Hannah to the moon and back, kiddo.”
23rd Street and she wondered if she was being stubborn about life and the paths it takes. She never planned to be pregnant at 18 years old; she planned to go to college and to major in something. Bobby had been by her side all along; he loved her and she loved him. There was something holding her back from moving on.
She thought about that night often and always with a sense of regret. She remembered her mother’s words to her about Hannah being a blessing and a gift. She was right about that, so why always the feeling of dread or regret? That night…raining outside the car as it was parked almost beneath the Verrazano Bridge. They were fooling around and one thing led to another…his arms around her, the windows all foggy and the smell of teenage passion. His tongue on her and she wanted him inside of her…
34th Street and she stood up as the train slowed down and entered the station. Doors opened and she walked right through. Her phone began to beep with alerts, several at one time now. As she stood on the escalator and read the notices she smiled.
One was from Bobby asking her to meet him for lunch. Another was from her mother with a picture of Hannah in school clothes smiling with the text. “School closing at 11 today in preparation for a snowstorm. Your father is so excited to spend the day with Hannah.”
The third one was from someone which said, “Office is closed today, we’ll see you tomorrow. Should anything change we will contact you. Be safe.”
She walked up the stairs into the street and there must have been several inches of snow on the ground, although it was all gray slush where she stood – you could tell it was piling up.
She texted Bobby that she was heading home. “Why don’t you come by the house later; I want to talk.”
She took a deep breath, took out her metro card and walked down the steps towards the F train to Brooklyn hoping the train would not be delayed. Her phone vibrated.
“OK, good stuff?” He texted.
“Good stuff.” She texted back and walked down the stairs, past the Michael Jackson dancers and a lady with a baby asking for money. She walked down a ramp and then the stairs to the Brooklyn bound side of the station.
An old man was playing guitar with a harmonica around his neck, he was singing a song that sounded familiar but could not place. An announcement from the subway, unclear and garbled as usual. About to ask someone to translate but she was interrupted by the F train rolling into the station.
“Next stop, 23rd street, stand clear of the closing doors please.”