I usually take the D train home, and at rush hour, it’s packed. Some nights when I’m exhausted, it sounds like people are arguing around me. I feel I should understand what they’re saying. Then I realize they’re speaking Cantonese.
At Grand Street, Chinatown, the doors open and half the train leaves. I shift my spot, gaining a seat or a space near a pole. The train lurches forward and bumps along unsteadily, like a groggy cow rising after her afternoon nap. The train surfaces, as the tunnel becomes a bridge, cuing passengers flip open their cellphones to make last minute calls. Outside, buildings push themselves up against the elevated tracks, as if trying to get a peek in, their windows close and grimy.
The trip across the bridge to Brooklyn is accompanied by a great screeching of metal, and a stop-go stop-go that forces my feet repeatedly into the pointy parts of my shoes. I am often clinging to a pole, trying to read a magazine, my handbag swinging in mid-air. Turning the page is an acrobatic trick. Then the tracks descend underground again and the lurching continues, the train fumbling clumsily toward the next stop.
I have to wonder whether the trip will ever be swift in the future. In a few years, will I be immersed in a magazine article, while buildings and bridge rush by? Will I ever careen wildly above the East River?
I don’t enjoy the trip right now, but part of me hopes it will never change. The D train sets Brooklyn apart. It’s still slightly inconvenient to get here, and as someone who believes that good things only come after bit of effort, I feel that's right. I don’t want the streets to be overrun with tourists or chain stores. I don’t want to wonder where the charm went. I want this place to remain pure and authentic. Call me old fashioned. I’m not ready for change.