Christmas Eve on a New York Subway

It was so long ago, living in New York,
thrift store shopping on the Upper East Side
on a snowy Christmas Eve.                        
My best friend and me,                         
my first year back in the City,                    
traipsing from store to store,                    
plundering the exquisite cast-aways                 
of the rich and famous,                        
laughing as we paid bargain store prices             
for Bloomingdales goods.                        
Walking the streets of Madison Avenue.            
we were the poor relatives from Brooklyn,             
living in a broke-down building on the edge of Bed-Stuy,
paying $80 a month rent,
setting roach traps every night before bed,
living on mac and cheese and tuna noodle casserole.

The subway, our magic carpet ride,
transported us Uptown, to indulge our pleasure of “thrifting,”
our friendship deepened by the love of the hunt, 
the clicking of the hangers as we pushed through
dresses, sweaters, pants, shirts, trying on shoes and hats and scarves,
so joyful to find a bargain that matched our desire for that very thing, 
and smug, thinking we looked like a million bucks!

We walked miles in that pure snow,
on those safe streets, 
welcoming shops full of abundance
and the good cheer of Christmas in the City,
softened, everything softened
by snow, Christmas lights,
happy people.  

It was night time
as we neared the subway to go home.
Gathering our bags around us,    
we sat down on the long bench
that ran the length of the train car.
We lurched toward the next stop.
The doors opened and a drunk man staggeredforward.
He looked around,
and seeing the bench almost empty,
sat down beside me,
put his head in my lap,
and fell asleep.