The Nancy Train

A tale of travels.

As I was leaving La Guardia airport, I stopped at a help desk to ask how to get to Bay Ridge by train.

The fellow at the help desk looked at me, “are you sure you want to take the train?”

— yes, please, just tell me where to pick it up.

“to Bay Ridge?”

- yeah.

“well, here — let me give you this map, because it’s pretty far, and you’re going to need to take the bus over to the N train — the Nancy train.”

- okay thanks, I appreciate your help. thanks for the map.

I looked hard at all the details he had just written on the map for me so I could burn it into memory. I walked out the door and debated for a brief moment whether to take a cab. Fifty bucks, though. Bah.

I was determined to get to Bay Ridge by public transit. It was a Thursday night in Queens, and Bay Ridge was a couple hours away. I took the bus over to Astoria and found my way to the Nancy train. Walking dark city streets while my suitcase wheeled over broken concrete is a remarkable feeling of urban pulse and alert exhilaration. Fortunately there was a cohort of public transiters with me, all of us making the trek from bus to train.

Several turns and a street staircase later, I was standing on the train platform and talking to my friend on my cell phone (oh hell the battery is low) letting her know I was on my way, I’d see her soon.

The N train goes through Manhattan before it gets to Brooklyn. I stepped out for a bright moment at Times Square, wistful for the company of a former boyfriend from whose apartment I could see Times Square from twenty blocks away, along Fashion Avenue. Bay Ridge is pretty far from Fashion Avenue, and this would be the first time I had ever been to Brooklyn.

I bask in the light of the Square for a short while before deciding I’d better get going because I still needed to find my friend’s apartment, and I really didn’t know how long it might take.

A bit more wandering through the Square and then back underground. Turns out it didn’t take that long at all, it was the second to the last stop from Coney Island, and a few blocks later I was knocking on her door. I also discovered that one of the cheapest taxi cab services in New York was right down the street from her place. I would find this to be convenient later when I left to fly out of JFK — which, unbeknownst to me, would be the first time I’d have to spend the night in an airport.

Later, upon leaving New York, my flight was delayed due to icy snow flurries that bordered on blizzard conditions. We spent two hours on the tarmac waiting to taxi onto the runway. As we waited, I wondered whether the FAA had sufficiently integrated climate change impacts on precipitation trends into their safety protocols for flight advisories. I decided they probably had not yet gotten that far with climate adaptation. I was not reassured by this conclusion.

Minutes crawled by.

Finally they canceled the flight because there was no longer enough fuel to go up, and the weather was so bad. I was relieved, more than I can ever convey, because I really thought that we wouldn’t survive that flight.

We tumbled back into the terminal, disoriented and crowding the desk for information on next available flights out. There weren’t many options. Finally she found something that would work.

I rebooked for the morning, and slept in JFK airport with a thin red blanket from Delta. Fortunately, the morning flight home was unremarkable.

There is more I could say about that trip and the one to Charleston shortly thereafter, as these were the February days when we witnessed our friend’s departure from the Earth and I inherited his busted up Seagull guitar.

So much happened in four short years, which is really not much time at all, though it felt like eternity. And it is remarkable the existential deserts I crossed since that flight was canceled.

There are three photographs that belong with this story, but I am not sure where all of them are. One is a fuzzy photo of Times Square I took with my phone camera. Another of my hotel room in Charleston. At the time I took the photo in Charleston, I didn’t know why I felt compelled to take it, or why I felt such an enigmatic soul leap to Madison, but I would realize a few weeks later after coming home. The third photo is one of me, wearing my friend’s dark rim glasses and a fancy fluffy dress. I really love that photo. I look very happy in it, because I was.

Actually, four photos. The fourth photo is one of a tree that sits alongside the East River near the Verrazano Bridge. It is the same tree and bridge I now relate to a song of souls crossing.

A view of the Verrazano Bridge. Photo by author. © Dawn Nelson.

It has taken me four years to write some of this story.

Another four years to publish it.

The first iteration of it, anyway.

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Dawn Nelson

Dawn Nelson

Artist, writer, strategist ~ creative nonfiction and periodic episodic rambling and reflection ~ www.dawn.earth ~ also on substack dawnnelson.substack.com