I’m still sussing out what’s what in this neighborhood and am still likening it to a small town high school where you scan for anyone like yourself, anyone who stands out, not necessarily a misfit but someone who’s not like the others.
Like in my late ’90s L train days, after Graham Ave. the cool kids dropped off with maybe a few stragglers left at Grand, after that it was all families and working stiffs. I’m not sure what that designation is on the 7 train. All the obvious people get off at the first stop into Queens, by Queensboro Plaza (and what feels like 50th stop in LIC) it’s the last of anyone who owns a condo or lives in a luxury high rise. A few grad student types might go a few stops farther into Sunnyside and that’s it. Then it’s John Rocker’s train.
Ok, not at all but there is a distinct lack of a certain element. I refuse to use the H word. That crowd doesn’t exist period–unless you’re one who categorizes all white, college educated people under 38 not wearing khakis in that manner.
Last week after midnight, though, I noticed a young woman who might fall under that umbrella. I can’t even say why except that she was wearing batik-y acid washed leggings, had navy nails, Toms or Toms-like shoes and was carrying a black cotton tote bag with a white logo of a man hugging a wolf-like animal, no text. Why totes connote hipster (yes, I said it) I don’t know, like there might be books lurking in there and hipsters like books? She resembled a younger Brooke Smith, I kept catching her looking at me and probably because I was tipsy took it to mean something more than it was. If it were a guy, I may have held a gaze. Each stop, I waited for her to get off and she didn’t until 74th, one station away from home, when the subway decided to go express with no reason. Normally, I would’ve walked the nine blocks but I’m getting sick of that stretch of Roosevelt and regret ever so slightly not moving closer to 74th instead of the 82nd St. station. A local came shortly. I got off and this woman did too, quickly with purpose in a normal Manhattan-speed down the platform and stairs. We were the first ones to descend down to the next level where there are four staircases. Just a few paces ahead of me, she chose my usual exit and headed straight up 82nd. I was tempted to follow her, but I don’t want a reputation as a platonic creeper.
She didn’t make sense over here at all. She was too young to own and I couldn’t see her renting with a bunch of roommates because there’s nothing for them to do here. (Astoria is really the only proper Queens neighborhood that fits that bill–I was there getting a lamb leg a few Saturdays ago and it was like very Murray Hill but for kids whose parents don’t pay their rent.) I could only envision her as a college-aged daughter visiting her dad, an Upper West Side transplant who still shops at Whole Foods in the city, donates to PBS and probably runs therapy groups out of his coop or an au pair to the same guy with a slightly younger wife and adopted child from China.
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Today at Mi Tierra, the grocery store with the best produce but still has a pile of Christmas Hershey’s Kisses and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup minis stacked near the register, I noticed what I thought was a teen, maybe 95 pounds, taking forever in the dairy aisle, fingering cans of whipped cream and staring at cottage cheese. The elevator creepers, black leggings, dyed red but not crayon color red hair, knit cap, heavy eyeliner, I assumed it was some warped Mexican iteration of a ’90s revival. She ended up in line behind me with four baby blue cans of fat free Reddi Wip. I turned to get a quick better look and was shocked, Oh, she’s 50. Maybe not even close. Probably late 30s with a hard edge and lot of deep facial creases. I couldn’t tell if she was more funky public school art teacher or eating disordered weirdo possibly into whippets or both.