Aggravational Observation

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic

This happened to me a night ago

It's not finished

“You wanna help me commit suicide?” said the disembodied voice coming from over my shoulder.

“Why not?” answered the facetious man, addressing his disheveled, gray friend whom I now see holding up a pack of cigarettes.

I turn back to the newspaper stand I was fixed on before the interruption, but quickly become again distracted by the gaunt, black man vomiting the last of his McDonald’s and crack dinner all over the lobby floor as the custodian, a mere arm’s length away, rolls his eyes.  It’s 12:41 A.M., Monday morning, in Penn Station.  

I buy a pack of cigarettes, like the hookers they are, from the clerk, inspired by those two friends to also emancipate my soul.  I walk through the same lobby, which separates the Long Island Railroad from New Jersey Transit, and up the muraled steps, advertising Wicked, into the cold, dirty streets of midtown to smoke a cigarette, aggravatingly awaiting my 1:09 A.M. train home.

A city silence calmly manifests with only a few honks, maybe one or two sirens in the distance, respecting the wayward denizens who try and get some sleep, while the house sized video board, reminding us that Mad Men comes back in April, acts as a nightlight.

“You got an extra cigarette, man?” asked the crouching, homeless fellow in a shaky voice.

“My last one, sorry.” I said

“Goddamn, what’s a nigga gotta do to get a fuckin’ cigarette?” muttering some more under his breath.

The cabs whoosh by, the wind sings through the grid, and the calmness becomes more and more peaceful.  I walk up to 33rd and look up to my right.  The most empire of buildings watches over us like the wise man of the tribe that he has become, shrinking with age but never more admirable, standing tall as the proud Patriarch of this community of steel with sky scraping ambition.

I toss my used up, whore cigarette onto the ground and walk back to the steps.  I see the same haggard man stumbling aimlessly and sympathize.  I pull out the full pack of Parliaments and walk over to him.

“Here ya go buddy.” I said, holding out a loosey.  He grabbed it and walked off without the kindness of a thank you.  I wasn’t looking for or expecting a thank you.  I didn’t need one.  Just trying to pay it forward, though I know he probably won’t.  

I walk down the steps back through the lobby and see the custodian finish cleaning up the mess left by the gaunt man who’s now collapsed on the ground, sprawled out and contortioned in a way that suggests that he has not chosen to fall asleep in this fashion.  I continue on down the escalator towards the Long Island Railroad.  Tired and miserable, in this particularly common situation in Penn Station late night, there is nowhere to sit.  Every store front, in the row of store fronts, is now closed and locked up aligned with sleeping carcasses standing guard.  Godblessum.  

“You can’t sleep here, sir.” A police officer says, approaching one of the homely men who immediately gets up and gathers his belongings, puts them away into his shopping cart and searches for a new corner to sleep.  

“Sir, you know you can’t sleep here tonight,” the officer continues down the line.


I stand underneath the departure board waiting to see what track my train will be on asking the gods “why is it that you slow down time in the most inopportune situations?”  I think about time travel, where I would go if it were possible, maybe to sometime in the future when teleportation exists and you don’t need to worry about trains.  

An overserved white girl with tights and a leather jacket stumbles up next to me eating a slice of pizza.

“Are you one of my friends.” she squawks.


“I lost my friends, I don’t know where they are.” whining.

“I’m sorry, I don’t either.”

“We were at brunch. Oh my god it was so fun.”

“That’s fantastic.”

“You’re mean.”


I hate these brunch brats, I know them all too well.  She left me and walked up to a misplaced, middle aged couple.

“I think you know my dad.” ...


“1:09 train to Babylon now arriving on Track 16,” came the announcement over the loudspeaker almost as if God’s voice was ringing out from the heavens as an exodus of late night workers, philandering husbands, confused asians, pissed off grumps, teenage girls coming from the seemingly interminable boy band concert, and many more charlatans head to the land of hedonism to have our sins washed away from this night to begin a new day.


Submitted: November 10, 2014

© Copyright 2021 Quinn Phelan. All rights reserved.

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