A few days ago, I was in New York and got last minute tickets to see the new Broadway production of Company. I took my 19-year-old cousin who is studying drumming and who loves theater. It was fun for me to talk with him after the show since he had never seen Company and was not at all familiar with it. He thought Sondheim was sitting next to him (a masked older man) but I knew it wasn’t his voice. However, I heard that Stephen was in the audience. My cousin let me experience the show as if it was new. In a sense, I got to experience the show through his eyes. Sometimes it is wonderful to share with someone who seems innocent and fresh and sees a show without the ability to compare productions, voices, characterization but to see it only as it exists in the moment.

After the show, I took a subway home. When I got on the car, I saw a few people quickly get up and move. I then saw a guy had sat on the same bench. I assume they wanted to get away from him. I have no idea of his age. He could be younger than I am. He had dark skin, a bald head with hair in a horseshoe shape around the perimeter. This hair was very matted. His clothes were dirty and baggy. I sat across from him. He looked like taking over an entire bench was a normal part of his life, like we were all invisibly occupying his home, yet he retained a personal space. I looked up and saw an employee of the subway standing nearby and we made eye contact. The unspoken message was that this guy could use something but what could we do? We quickly detached into our own little invisible bubbles of solitude. The next stop, someone sat next to me. She was in her early 20s and very pretty with thick wavy dark hair and an aura of contentment. She was carrying two lovely bright yellow roses, fully opened, with long stems held loosely in her smooth pale hands.

A young man with clean clothes that fit him well started begging everyone to give him money for food. He emphasized that he needed money for food over and over. He was eating an apple and carrying more fruit. His shoes appeared to be new and stylish. The silent man across from me was lying on the bench and I could see holes in the soles of his worn shoes.

The guy lying down would vacillate between lying and sitting. He seemed to sit when he needed to scratch, which was a regular occurrence. He would often scratch his discolored, pale, scaly leg by pulling up the bottom of his pants. He would also put his hand way down from the waste of his pants and scratch his thigh and crotch.

As the train traveled north, people exited leaving lots of empty seats. However, the young woman next to me stayed in place and I stayed next to her to protect her silently and secretly. We traveled like this for about 30 minutes. No one spoke but we were all acutely aware of our surroundings. Everyone in the car had their own life and story. We were all just random people going from one place to another, together on one way and isolated in another.

When we got to a certain stop, the pretty girl got up and, on her way to the exit, gently placed one of her roses on the belongings of the guy across the aisle. He didn’t seem to notice but lay down again, somewhat crushing the petals under his foot. After a few minutes passed, he arose, gathered his stuff (which was bundled and tied to his pants with a string.) It was then that he noticed the rose, picked it up (the petals were fresh and supple enough for the flower to bounce back to its lovely shape,) and transferred on the moving train to another car.

I eventually reached my stop and headed home to bed.

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David Fink

I'm a midwesterner who is living this phase of his life in the arts.