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Night in the Big Apple MAG
The lights of the Big Apple illuminated the night sky. The city could not have been bright enough as I craned my neck and smashed my face against the airplane window to get a better look. My heartbeat quickened at the thought of spending four days with my favorite person, my sister, in my favorite city, New York. I did not know how I got so lucky, but I did know I was going to enjoy every minute.
As soon as I landed, I called my sister, who was waiting for me right outside the security checkpoint. I weaved through the crowd until I got stuck behind a couple with toddler triplets who were holding hands and taking up most of the walkway. I watched them and could not help smiling as I remembered my favorite quote, “It’s still true, no matter how old you are - when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.” My smile turned into a huge grin when I saw my sister waving. We hugged and headed for the train, talking about the upcoming days and how much fun they would be.
The train pulled into Penn Station and we headed for the subway. I lagged behind my sister, rolling my bag and feeling blisters forming on my hands. My shoulders were killing me from my backpack, but I kept going. After carrying my bag down two flights of stairs, we trudged toward our platform. My sister checked the map once more before stepping onto the train. I reached behind me to pick up my bag but as I turned back around, the door slammed in my face. Horrified and filled with panic, I slapped the window to make sure what was happening was for real. When I saw my sister’s similarly horrified face, I regained my composure, held up my cell phone and gave a strained smiled. She nodded and disappeared from sight.
At that moment, I realized that being all alone in my favorite city was not what I really wanted. Becoming aware of my environment, I slowly turned and noticed people staring at me with amusement. Self-consciously, I pulled out my cell phone.
“There’s no service down here,” a lady said.
Startled, I managed a small, “Oh.”
“Where are you going?”
“I, uhh, visiting my sister ... I’m not sure where she’s staying, but she works at NYU Med Center.”
“Oh, NYU, just take the next subway and get off at the next stop.”
I breathed a little sigh of relief. The next subway rattled its way in front of me. I glanced back one last time and mouthed “Thanks” to my guide. I hopped on the subway and found a seat next to an old, burnt-smelling man who was asleep. The subway arrived at the next station with no mugging or kidnapping. I rolled my bag off and followed the crowd. I passed a couple wailing and playing the guitar for money, walked out of the gates and back up two flights of stairs to the crowded streets. I glanced around and realized I was in a not-so-friendly part of the city. Drunks staggered around and one with a green mohawk stumbled a little too close to me. I gripped the nasty railing that led back down to the subway and dialed my sister’s number. It went straight to voicemail. I tried several more times without success. I did not want to stand there looking vulnerable, so I pretended I was on the phone. After several minutes of talking to myself, the phone’s ring blasted in my ear. Startled, I heard my sister’s breathless voice. I was so relieved, I felt like crying.
“Where are you?” she asked.
“I took the next subway and got off at the next stop.”
“Oh, my gosh! Okay, stay there, I came back around to where I left you. Stay where you are!”
I hung up and watched the people. Four staggering drunk guys were walking toward me. My brain started going full-speed ... Should I sit down and look homeless? Do I start running the other way? Nothing good came to mind, so I whipped my cell phone back out and again began chatting with myself. They stumbled by without incident and I tried to remember why New York was my favorite city.
As I thought back to childhood trips here, my phone rang. Instinctively, I wheeled around to the stairs expecting to see my sister.
“Where are you, Jen? I’m up on the street.”
I turned around, praying somehow she had come without either of us noticing the other.
“I don’t know! I followed people out of the subway. They were all going right. Then I passed two people trying to sing, through the gate and up the stairs.”
“I went left. I know where you are! Stay on the phone! I’m coming!”
My sweat-stained palm print appeared on the black railing as I released it and casually walked toward the street. I closed my eyes, said a silent prayer and looked left.
“I see you!”
So many emotions incapacitated me for that moment as I watched my sister and heard her winded breathing on the phone. She ran full speed toward me, knocking my rolly-bag over and the wind out of me.
“Hold my hand.”
She grabbed my hand. Normally, I would cringe at holding anyone’s hand in public, but I obeyed. As we walked, I managed a smile as I remembered the triplets I’d seen at the airport. If only I had been like them, holding hands and sticking together, my sister and I wouldn’t have gotten into all this trouble. I laughed and received a curious glance from my sister.
“You know, Mir,” I told her, “it’s still true. No matter how old you are, it is best to hold hands and stick together.”
Example City, Costa Rica