Phoenix Thorwall ∙ 01/28/2022 ∙ January 2022
Phone? Dead. Railroad? Malfunctioning. Outfit? On point. It’s your typical Sunday in New York City, and I’m stuck in a station I’ve never been in before. Trains decided to make their last stop in the middle of the route, and then head to a completely different borough. D’s became B’s and N’s turned into Q’s. I don’t blame them though; sometimes I don’t have a good grip on how I want to be perceived either.
I should let my mom know I’m going to be late. Maybe she could call me an uber too. Just like any native New Yorker, I should have no trouble talking to strangers and asking to use their phones. But…I’m too nervous to ask for help. What if they think my jacket is too big? What if they think my hairstyle is lame? Worst of all, what if I’m mistaken for a tourist? The behavior of a typical New Yorker truly is a double-edged sword. Hearing the pitter-patter of small feet on the tracks, I turn and lock eyes with a rat. Some people may flinch, or even throw up at the sight of a sewer rat. But real New Yorkers can see each other eye to eye and find solace in times like these, even if it is just a rat. I could ask him for help. Even if he does judge me, it’s not like I’ll understand him.
I pinch my nose and jump into the depths of the tracks, my feet splashing against the murky subway…water? Semantics aside, I chase my new best friend, Alfonzo into the dark subway tunnel.
As I chase Alfonzo down the tracks, he gives me a few pointers on basic rat speak. I guess I should think of some good comebacks in case they do decide to make fun of me now. “How does it feel to have the ugliest hairstyle to be modeled after you?” Is that too harsh? I could workshop later. He teaches me some other things too, such as how there’s one rat for every person in the world. Is that like a statistic? A religious thing? Some wicked science experiment? Alfonzo quickly changed the subject. For now, it’s just me, him, and the shadows of the tunnel.
After skittering for what felt like hours we came to a stop to what I assume is Alfonzo’s rat tribe. I couldn’t make out everything they said but it was something along the lines of…
Meep chatter meep “What do you need, kid?” Chatter chatter squeak “Oh I just need to get on a local R bound train” Squeak squeak meep meep chatter scitter “Oh, the R train?! Why didn’t you ask sooner?” Scitter meep chatter “How long do you think the wait will b-” I hear a roaring pounding down the track. A massive wave of rats spilled into view in front of me. Meep squeak! “ASSEMBLE” Upon that command, the rats begin to link their tails into chains. They used those chains to link onto each other, morphing into a greater mass: A train. Meep sitter squeak meep?! “Rats could do that the whole time?! Squeak Meep skitter “You betcha. We’re New Yorkers aren't we?” I step into the rat train, careful not to harm my new companions, my family. Some of them even break formation to transform into a seat for me. How hospitable.
The 86th street station gets filled with an uproar of screams as a train made of rats spills out and floods the platform. Honestly, I wouldn’t be very surprised if I was one of the bystanders watching such a spectacle. This is just your typical Sunday in New York City. Squeak meep chatter chatter skitter “It looks like this is the end. We don’t expect anything in return. Just the wish that you’ll think of us whenever you swipe your MetroCard.”
“Goodbye Alfonzo!” I couldn’t bear to say it in ratspeak as I was barely able to get the words out of my mouth through snotty sobs and tearful gasps.
I unlock the doors to my house, skitter up the steps, quickly correcting my posture to make sure I don’t make a scene in front of my mom. She probably wouldn’t let me go into the City anymore if she found out what I was doing, hanging out with sketchy characters she’s never met before. But she doesn’t need to know that. She just needs to know I got back safe, with the help of friends I’ll never forget.