人们说这座城市从不睡觉. Granted, the streets seem to pulse with an incessant stream of life. During the morning—the busiest part of the day—businessmen, 学生, and the occasional cluster of tourists flow down the sidewalk, converting the cement pavement into a one- way stream of bobbling heads. 它来自于附近的汽车河, trucks and bikes in which even more people travel untiringly until they arrive at their destination: a soaring building off to the side.
Most return to their apartments around the 5 o’clock rush, and the cacophony of horns honking and wheels grinding against the asphalt transforms into a faint roar that lulls city natives to sleep; however, the city is kept awake and alert by ambitious, 类型——一个工人. Their office lights stay on well into the midnight hours; from the streets, their windows are artificial stars that illuminate the sky.
College 学生 take advantage of their newfound freedom and return to the streets for an unpredictable night out. 小时后, some of the college kids stumble out of the clubs, young and foolish and drunk on either life or alcohol. 然而,, 同时, they harbor such an ineffable aura of invincibility—or as close to invincibility as a mere human can attain.
But most of the people on the streets in the nebulous hours between dawn and dusk are not leaving a party or a work office nor progressing towards home; they wander because they have no home. They wait on doorsteps or on street corners for the sun, which will lure the rest of the city out once again.
I am one of the 学生 whose head can be seen weaving in and out of the morning throng, ,偶尔, I’m one of the blithe college kids leaving the club with my arms linked around my friends’ elbows. I navigate the streets with ease and can successfully hail a cab. 在纽约待了四个月之后, I have integrated myself into the vivacious city atmosphere. Like I thought, I have a propensity for the city life. 我生来就是来纽约的.
但我尽量融入人群, I have the eyes of a foreigner—and this enables me to see the parts of the city that natives unintentionally overlook.
My phone buzzes in my bag, and I dig through my books to find my phone. 我粗略地看了一眼屏幕. 一张妈妈对我微笑的照片. Without hesitation, I press “ignore”, and continue my brisk walk to the train station.
With what seems like the population of the whole city, I finally descend into the metro station and flood into the train when it screeches to a halt. I’m sandwiched between an exhausted mother with a child clinging onto her legs and a stereotypical businessman, 穿着正式的西装，戴着劳力士手表. The businessman laughs boisterously into his phone. “是的，我今晚工作得很晚. 我最近的项目让我很忙. But don’t worry; I’m taking the next few days off so that I can be home in time.” On my other side, the mother tries to quell her querulous son with promises. “You can have all the pie you want when we go to grandma’s, but no ice cream right now.”
每次门打开的时候, cool air blows in and people trickle out of the subway like sand out of a sieve. 最终, the jolly businessman exits the train at one stop and the mother with her child at the next. The lively shouts and laughter, the constant honks and beeps leave with them. 温暖随他们而去. I’m left with the empty, robotic whirring of wheels against the track. It’s a sound that the others on the train—the natives—don’t even register because it’s become like background music to them that plays throughout their day; however, 我对它非常熟悉.
Slowly but surely, I watch part of New York City fall asleep.
我和一个孤独的老人一起坐地铁. Although he can’t be past sixty years old, his face is long, wrinkled and worn. 事实上, his whole presence feels tired; he slouches and hangs over his clasped hands as if he long lost interest in looking others in the eyes and carrying himself with dignity. He wears a double- button pea coat that could have once been impressive and quality but is now shabby around the edges. 底部的按钮不见了, 像老人的眼睛, dear stuffed animal that has been forgotten about long ago. His neatly combed salt- and- pepper hair seems like a façade—his halfhearted attempt to conceal his weariness.
我把目光从他身上移开, startled that he caught me in the midst of my examination of him, 然后慢慢回头看. 这一次，他抬起头来看着我. The garish lights cast long shadows and emphasize the folds in his face and bags beneath his eyes. 我礼貌的微笑. “不，只是待在城里.”
“那么，你为什么不回家去呢?” The man’s voice is gravelly and almost echoes in the train.
I rashly toss aside anything I learned about not talking to strangers. “What makes you so sure that I don’t live here?”
I look down to check what I’m wearing, and blush when I see my NYU crewneck. Half annoyed that this man soiled my efforts to fully assimilate to New York City so easily, I pull my coat over my sweater to hide the outfit I chose in the 6 a.m. 黑暗.
“Excuse me for asking, but why aren’t you returning home for the holiday?”
我交叉双臂，心中的烦恼与日俱增. The man’s questions begin to feel like an interrogation. “我有我自己的个人原因.”
He stares at me before finally returning his concentration to his intertwined hands. 它们看起来就像一堆粗糙的树根. 我避开他的眼睛，直到他清了清嗓子. “我认识一个有远大梦想的男孩.”
“你在说什么呀??” I consider the fact that I might be talking to a maniac or an insane homeless man.
我暂停. I’ll only be on the train another few minutes at most. “那么，这个男孩怎么样??”
The corner of his mouth tugs up into a slight grin. “是的,那个男孩. 他是个梦想家. Oh, he strove for the stars since he was born and never set his eyes anywhere else. When he was just a little kid, he dreamt of being an astronaut like all other boys. 长大后，他一直在做梦. 这一次，他想成为一名电影导演. He was given a camera one Christmas, and well,” he chuckles and smiles wistfully. “He locked himself in his room for the rest of the day. He made a stop motion video using his action figures and RC cars. 他为那段视频感到骄傲.”
“对不起,”我干预. “这个故事有什么意义吗? 比如道德或教训?”
他尖锐地盯着我. “就听.” He holds his stare, and I lower my head in resignation.
他继续说着，但他那沉思的语气已经消失了. 它是忧郁的. 虚弱的. 但他的父亲粉碎了他的梦想. He was so persistent and stubborn about his son following in his footsteps. 他是律师事务所的一员. Very successful lawyer, and he was also extremely cocky about being a Harvard law school alumnus. Obviously, his son didn’t want to be a chip off the old block. Even as a high school senior, he still had his sights on going to Hollywood to pursue his dreams. 他的父亲禁止他. 告诉他最好去学法律. If he left for California, he wasn’t welcome home. 好吧, 高中毕业后, 他登上了去好莱坞的第一架飞机, leaving his family to wonder about what became of him.”
The man draws his story to a close and once again I can only hear the low whistle of the train wheels. I stare at him again, this time not looking away when he lifts his chin. He no longer seems like a rambling old man—rather, he is teeming with knowledge. His numerous wrinkles are indicative of old age, but of hardship and experience. After hearing the whole story, my irritation melts into a sense of connection.
我发现我的钱包在我的包里. I only have a twenty dollar bill, and I’ll need it tomorrow, but I pull it out anyways. “先生，我要你拿着这个.”
He looks at the outstretched bill with surprise and pushes my hand back. “No need to call me ‘sir’; just call me 泰迪.”
Seeing that he won’t willingly accept the money, I place it in his lap. “Sorry for being so rude earlier; I really enjoyed your story. 祝你感恩节愉快，泰迪.”
I turn to leave the train, but balk just short of the sliding doors. After some hesitation, I face the man one last time. “我不能不问你一件事就走.”
His expression of surprise hasn’t left his face. “请说吧，小姐.”
I subconsciously squeeze my hands into fists and think of the last conversation I had with my mom. “你曾经后悔离开家人吗?? 把他们从你的生活中剔除,” I look anxiously to the old man for an answer, 即使他们不尊重你的梦想?”
He plays with the string that once sewed a button onto his pea coat. 沉思片刻后，他终于回答了. “I wouldn’t know,” he says, “I was the one left behind.” He stands up, and for the first time I notice something behind his legs. It’s a slim briefcase with words engraved on it in the bottom right corner:
- THEORDORE B. 穆里根
他把我的钱硬塞到我手里. “I appreciate the thought, but don’t rush to assumptions; Harvard law, remember?他拿起公文包，朝我点了点头. “This is my stop, and I’m quite sure it’s yours too. Now, be safe in the dark, miss, and rush on home. 享受你的感恩节.”
After he leaves, I stare at his back until it disappears. Finally alone on the train in the midst of the one sleepy part of New York City, I pull out my phone from my bag and bring up my call history. My mom first called two weeks after I arrived at NYU. As I continued to neglect her calls, her attempts became more frequent. 最终, I felt no guilt from clicking “ignore” each time. She was as angry with me for leaving as I was with her for preventing me from doing so. 我打算自己养活自己. I saved a good amount of money before coming to New York and was going to look for some work right after arriving; however, 计划从来没有那么简单.
I step out of the train, close my eyes and exhale before clicking “call”. 这个按钮会显示她的照片ID. In the picture I have of her, she’s smiling so genuinely and her eyes crinkle at the side. 阳光反射在她卷曲的棕色头发上. I remember that day pleasant spring afternoon; she had been working for a good hour or two, so I brought out a glass of cold lemonade for her. She laughed, pleased by my surprise, and I pulled out my phone and captured that joy in a photo. Each time she called, I saw that smile, frozen in time. Never before did I imagine her actual face on the other side of the phone line after I hung up on every call.
The other end clicks, and I quickly bring my phone to my ear.
I walk out of the train station and back into the bustling night. People push past me, not giving me a second glance. They navigate the city streets like a map, so focused on reaching that “X- marks- the- spot”.
查找, I notice that a few stars have broken through the 黑暗 and thick layer of city pollution; they’re the first I’ve seen in four months. 在那一刻, I think about how they’re brighter than any skyscraper’s windows could ever be and how some nights I can’t fall asleep to the sound of traffic and how utterly and 强烈的 我想吃奶奶做的南瓜派.
恩典沈 is a high school sophomore in Cherry Hill. In her free time, she enjoys reading, writing, and drawing. She plays piano outside of school and clarinet for her school’s band and also partakes in other clubs such as student government, 学校的报纸, 和学校的科学奥林匹克竞赛队.