the wrong exit

Years ago, before there was any gentrification of certain areas of Brooklyn, I was invited to see a show that my sister was in at an ultra off-off Broadway venue. My sister had given me very explicit and I thought rather control-freaky instructions as to how to get there… get on the very end car of a certain subway, take the exit nearest the end car, go up the stairs, turn L on such and such a street, go 4 blocks, turn R etc…..there will be a sandwich board on the sidewalk outside the theatre. Alright already, I thought, I’ve lived in NYC longer than you, I know how to get around…some of my friends even call me “The Subway Queen”.

I was so cocky about my NYC travel savvy that I only allowed myself a scant half hour to get there but luck and street smarts were with me and as I leapt down the subway stairs and thru the turnstyle and managed to slip expertly and gracefully into the front car of the train. No problemo, I thought, I’ll just walk down to the other exit when I get there. When the train arrived at the appointed stop, I hopped off, saw some stairs to the street and thought, what the hell, I’ll just go up here and then I should be able to see where the other exit comes out.

When I got up to street level and looked around I had a brief moment of feeling I had emerged into some sort of an alternate universe…all I could see around me was a jungle of grey stone arches. Mammoth grey stone arches with dark and shadowy recesses. It finally dawned on me that I was under the Brooklyn Bridge and at the same moment I realized that everyone who had gotten off the train had disappeared. So it was me, alone, staring into the dark and shadowy recesses. This is the point at which, in a movie, I would be cursing the stupidity of the person of for putting themselves in a situation that was so obviously going to produce some really horrible event. I had walked into ‘Bonfire of the Vanities’ with the innocence of a baby seal awaiting slaughter.

I had 2 choices…I could head for the shadowy recesses, where I had seen many people disappear(to God knows what fate)and try and find somebody to ask directions, or I could head away from the bridge and try and find the exit I was supposed to have come out of . I decided that anybody who was still hanging out in the shadowy recesses was probably not going to be someone I could trust for directions so I headed for the street I saw in front of me, hoping to find a restaurant or a store or something. Now at this point in the story I want to stress the fact that there was no one around. The area had been sucked dry of all human beings moments after we had all emerged from the subway…..except me.

Now most of NYC is laid out with wonderful regularity and the street numbers follow an orderly sequence so that you know that an address of 360 something st. will be in approximately the same place as the address 360 on parallel streets. My plan was to find which direction to walk in by following the numbers on the buildings until I found the correct address and then at least I would be in the general area of my destination. The street I found myself on was all warehouses and what might have been storefronts during the daylight but they now had those wavy metal garage door things pulled down and were covered with ominous graffiti. Not the cool, artistic kind of graffiti either. Creepy graffiti. So I walked along the street looking for numbers. There were no numbers, anywhere. There were no street signs. There were no restaurants, no friendly lighted windows. No people. It was a nightmare. I was in a nightmare. It then, unbelievably, started to rain and, of course, I had no umbrella.

I started nervously half jogging first in one direction and then in the other, becoming more and more frantic with each change in direction until suddenly something just broke in my mind and I thought, this a nightmare, by God I’m just going to act like I’m in a nightmare. So I just let go and ran through the streets in the rain, stumbling, waving my arms back and forth, half crying, half screaming, and babbling things like ” I’m scared, I’m scared, this is horrible, I’m alone, I don’t know what to do, where to go, help me, help me, I’m scared”…etc. etc. I mean how often to we get the chance to do that, just totally and utterly let go into our fear fully and without reservation? ‘Fight or Flight’, one of our most basic ┬áinstincts, right? Since there didn’t seem to be anything tangible around to fight, my instincts chose flight. I have no idea how long I did this for, but gradually, through the haze of the tears, sweat and rain, I saw an open doorway down the street with light spilling out of it and ….a sandwich board on the sidewalk. I slowed down to a jog, and while still whimpering and crying, some part of me oddly managed to look at my watch….two minutes to eight and I had arrived at my destination. Then, and this is the really amazing part, in the 2 minutes it took me to get to the door, I miraculously transformed from my primitive, literally scared out of my wits self into a modern, sophisticated,( though somewhat bedraggled looking )savvy New York theatre goer, arriving fashionably just in time for the show.

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