Sweet Jesus, I wish the pain would stop. My pelvis is seconds away from rupturing. My insides wait in urgent pregnancy to ooze from my core, ready to coat the seats and floor beneath me. Why won’t this fucking train move? It’s time to go.
We’re underneath Boston Common at the T’s Park Street station. It’s half-past midnight and we’re sitting on the night’s last Green Line train back to our apartment. Our train cannot leave until the advertised time, it being the night’s last train and all. So we wait.
“I’m gonna piss myself. Go tell this guy to get a move on,” I tell Benson.
Minutes earlier, my roommate and I had finished participating in a timeworn Boston ritual. As newly-minted 21-year-olds, we exercised our imperative to visit bars previously inaccessible with our fake IDs. This is a freedom not to be wasted and must be pursued with the curiosity and tenacity of a child needing to know what grown-ups do in those magic hours after bedtime. Fun times, we’re blitzed, but I’m being punished for skipping potty time.
“Tell him yourself. I don’t have to go.”
It’s not like Benson would do this favor for me anyway. But he’s right. Why don’t I tell him myself? Surely this unionized government employee will listen to the rationale of an obnoxious and sozzled NU kid.
The Green Line trains are not typical subway cars; they are light rail trolleys that source power from the overhead catenary wires. This line operates underground and on city surface roads, and, like other trolleys, the driver sits in front exposed to the riffraff and midnight drunks.
I stand, and from the center of the car I shuffle to the shower curtain that shields the pilot from passengers. I pull the curtain back primed to pitch my request. I’m met with an empty chair.
The dash is a wonderful board of buttons, important-looking toggle switches, and gauges. Underneath, the shine of a metal, foot-shaped pedal gives an inviting wink. I have never seen the cockpit of a Green Line car up close before, and I’ve never been this unsupervised in a Green Line cockpit before.
I don’t know why, but I’m now having visions. I see in my head images of this train pulling up to my street with me steadfast and even-keeled in the driver’s seat. Never mind that I’m ripped and I’ve never operated a subway car before. And never mind that I can’t perform the proper track switching ahead and we could end up in Brookline. All Irrelevant; I’m driving this sucker home.
Presently, this is a strong and sensible idea. I don’t think my sober mind has ever had such an unwise idea, and to this day I wonder if my scheme portends an impending psychosis. Right now, though, this idea is not only rational and sans risk, it’s an obligation. I need to send the T a message.
Driving this rig can’t be that hard? It’s on tracks, so it’s not like I have to steer. No intersections to cross. Just push the pedal and go. Either I’ll move the train ever-so-slightly and the operator will take my very reasonable point that leaving drunk people in need of urinary relief to wait for a train has consequences – and therefore he should get his ass in gear - or I’ll drive the train to my stop and stroll into my building. They’ll never figure out it was me.
Standing at the threshold, I look down at dashboard with its friendly knobs and toggles. I place both hands on the dash mashing buttons and switches, I slip my foot on the shinny steel pedal…
The train’s lights extinguish. The engine grumbles and stops. A soft, inoffensive buzzing alarm permeates from above. I just turned off the goddamn T! I just turned off the goddamn T! A beat passes and I look back over my shoulder into Benson’s face; his eyes are wide and his mouth agape. The faces of other passengers betray everything from bewilderment, curiosity, bemusement and agitation. Pissed-off people trying to get home on the last train will have no problem ratting me out; I know right then it is not in my best interest to play coy or explain this to anyone with any official title or authority.
Deep breath. With composure, I find the exit and I step down onto the station’s brown brick floor. I perform my faux sober-est, inconspicuously relaxed walk towards the turnstiled exit one hundred feet away. Halfway there, two men in blue subway authority uniforms bolt past me focused on the buzzing green-striped car to my rear. My pace slightly quickens and as soon as I’m past the turnstile, I sprint, then jet up the stairs.
Spilling onto empty and sparsely lit Tremont Street, I urgently need to disappear. I know I’m on the first vehicle that stops: taxi, gypsy cab, bike, someone who’ll pick up a hitchhiker, bus, ped-o-van – I don’t care. My salvation instantly appears in the form of a city bus; I wave, it stops, I slip my fare into the collection trap and I pour myself into a seat.
I don’t care where I’m going, but this turns out to be the jackpot bus. This bus’s destination terminates a block from my apartment. At 1:00 am, no one is waiting at bus stops and there’s no traffic. And with a bus driver running the last route of his late-night shift, we’re running express. We hit all the green lights and within five minutes I’m off the bus and standing in sight of my building.
I find sweet relief, although today I can’t remember how. Perhaps I wait until I arrived in my own bathroom, perhaps not. But I do remember waiting 40 minutes before my roommate walked into the apartment, desperate for a toilet.
Photo by jwardell used under Creative Commons.