A friend of mine posted this page with pictures of NYC subways in the 70s and 80s on Facebook and somehow it inspired me to write a short story. The second prompt came from the Daily Post on January 18: “the luckiest people”. Hope you’ll like it, comments are welcome!
The Lucky Ones
When Robert thought about that night today, everything seemed to be covered by a red haze. It gave the subway car a warm and welcoming feeling, one that couldn’t have been there that fateful night.
“And which station was it?” Sheryl was getting impatient. She’d asked the same question ever since they had boarded the M line. She clutched her handbag with her right hand while her left one was searching Robert’s hands.
“Relax, it’s only a couple more…” Robert closed his eyes and leaned back against the cold wall. The rumbling of the train filled his ear, but he could still hear Sheryl’s complaints.
“Relax? Here? How could I? And please don’t lean your head against that filthy wall, God knows what kind of diseases have made their home there!”
“Yeah, I’ll probably get AIDS…” Robert was annoyed.
“Robert, this is not funny!”
“Sorry, of course it’s not…” Robert sat up straight again. He was tired after the long day at the office and the unfortunately rather boring Broadway play they had “enjoyed”. His colleagues had called him lucky for winning the tickets, but considering the play’s poor quality he would have preferred being unlucky for once.
“You don’t think someone with AIDS has been riding this car?” Sheryl’s mind began to run amok.
Robert finally took her hand and squeezed it tightly. “Honey, I don’t know. But you’re a grown woman and you should know that you can’t contract AIDS by simply riding on the same train.”
“Are you sure?”
God, had Sheryl always been this stupid? Or was it just a symptom of her growing panic?
“Yes. 100% sure.” Robert sighed. “Why don’t you tell me ’bout that new colleague of yours – Annie? Will take your mind off this car.”
Sheryl turned to look at Robert and it was evident that she had no intention to talk about Annie. “You said it would be fun to use the subway for once. Fun! I always thought we had the same understanding of “fun”. But now I find that what you imagine when you say “fun” is beggars, and graffiti, and stinking chairs, and sticky floors, and a smell that would make a skunk pale!!”
Sheryl didn’t often yell, but when she did it was loud. Very loud. Robert threw an uncomfortable look at the other passengers in the car who were already staring at them. He wanted to calm Sheryl, but she abruptly got up.
“I’m gonna get off here and take a taxi home. And I don’t care whether I’ll have to pay 500 dollars for it!”
Robert jumped up and ran after her. The second he was out on the chilly platform, the doors slammed closed behind him. A few kids were standing on the platform with one of those giant cassette players.
“You should all be in bed at this hour! What kind of parents do you have?” Sheryl yelled at them, for no apparent reason other than needing to yell at someone.
The kids looked curiously at Robert and Sheryl, laughed and then just continued talking among themselves.
“I swear, if Pete ever starts listening to that awful music, I’m gonna send him right off to boarding school!” Sheryl stormed off to the exit.
Robert only caught up with her at the taxi rank. He was constantly amazed by how fast she could walk in those high heels.
“Isn’t this just perfect?” Sheryl was close to tears. “We got off that horrid train in the middle of nowhere and now there’s no taxi and it’s cold and we’re gonna be attacked by some gang…”
Robert took off his jacket and put it on Sheryl’s shoulders. “I’m sorry.”
“I’m sorry this evening didn’t turn out the way you hoped it would. I really thought you would enjoy the subway ride. I mean, you’re from D.C., shouldn’t you be used to this?”
Sheryl snorted, but in an affectionate way. “You think my mom ever let me ride a D.C. train or even bus? She would rather have hired a private car and chauffeur…”
“No, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have panicked in there.” She moved an inch closer to Robert. “How do the tourists do that? Ride those trains and honestly think they’re having the time of their life?”
Robert laughed. “I have no idea.”
They had to wait for half an hour until they finally got hold of a taxi. It cost a fortune and it was only slightly less smelly than the subway.
The next morning, they read that there had been a shootout on the M train. The one that they had taken. Right after the station at which they had gotten off.