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Steffie’s Day Out

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(This is something I had on Facebook earlier this year. It deserves a wider read.)

It is 6 pm. I have just boarded the F train, transferring from the 6 for my ride home. There are actually a decent number of open seats in the car, and I take one, sitting down in front of a biggish, paunchy man in his late 50’s. He wears a dark brown shearling coat.

He also wears a long blond ringleted wig and a hairband with a fake plastic Minnie-Mouse bow on it.

I study him as we ride, doing the subtle check-someone-out-without-them-knowing-it thing. I can see some kind of little-girl costume peeping out from under the coat, all lace and ruffles and ribbons and blue gingham on the bloomers, for yes, there are bloomers, pulled on over white tights. In one hand he holds a fake giant lollipop, the kind that’s all rainbow swirls. In the other he holds a child’s backpack by the straps, and it dangles between his legs; it is a cherry-fruit-and-leaves print. There’s a Hello Kitty-shaped name tag attached to it with the name “Steffie” written on the back in red ballpoint pen. On his feet are white saddle shoes with black cats’ faces stenciled on each of the toes. He wears a faint trace of lipstick and makeup – not too much, but enough for me to tell that it’s some kind of stage-makeup pancake foundation. The scarf and mittens don’t match; they’re handknit, red marl yarn. He doesn’t really notice me looking; he just glances around him, bored, occasionally trying to read over the shoulder of the woman who sits beside him flipping rapid-fire through the pages of a glossy fashion magazine.

One stop later, at 2nd Avenue, Steffie gets up and leaves the car. I have just enough time to see him on the platform, looking first one direction and then the other, momentarily confused which way to turn, before the doors shut and the subway starts to pull out.

As it does, the woman with the fashion magazine finally looks up and gives me one glance, her eyebrow raised slightly – “you saw that too, right?” her look says – and she goes back to her magazine.

Other than her and me, no one else on the entire subway seems to have even noticed Steffie was even there.

Sometimes New York is amazing.

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