Diary of a Transplant: The Commute

Each week, writer Larissa Phillips, transplant from Brooklyn, brings you tales of life upstate. This week: what it’s like to commute from bucolic Greene County back into New York City.

Most of my week is filled with bucolic, 19th century-ish, Little-House-on-the-Prairie-style tasks.  I garden, I knit, I shovel poop, I fix fences, I homeschool the young-uns.

Then, once a week, I am jerked awake by the dismaying sound of a 6 am alarm, and I head off to my two-day work week in the city. Imagine the sounds of steel brakes screeching on metal, like a locomotive jerking to a halt. Reality check! Back to the city, back to work, back to reality. Oh god.

Goodbye, sleeping children. Please don’t wrap your sleeping arms around my neck and beg me not to go. It’s already hard enough. Goodbye, ponies who whinny at me as I walk to the truck, hoping I’ll come back and feed them some hay. Nice try, though. I appreciate your optimism, almost 90 minutes before your usual breakfast. Goodbye, early sunrise pressing past navy ropy clouds and illuminating the sprawl of farmscape as I crest the hill just after Jane’s horse pasture on County Route 26. That pretty row of trees. Goodbye, sparrows playing and mating in the blossoming cherry trees as I climb onto the train in Hudson. So long, complicated Norwegian-style mittens I am more than half-way finished with, and accidentally forgot to bring.

Hello, rheumy-eyed, leather-faced woman next to me on the F train, who can’t stop explosively gargle-coughing into a sodden tissue in the seat next to me. Do you have infectious tuberculosis, or did you just chain smoke your way through a bad case of bronchitis? Either way, you are 18 inches from my face with your spastic, retching lungs. All the way from Broadway-Lafayette in Manhattan to 9th Street in Brooklyn. OH MY GOD. Have you considered quitting smoking?

Hello! shouting man striding up and down the subway car, selling your college-educated hip-hop album, which you are playing at a deafening level, as you stride back and forth, shouting over the music. Hello, blind man begging, who I’m not sure if you are telling the truth or not, I saw you so neatly not step on that guy’s foot. Hello, drumming couple with upturned plastic buckets. I sometimes kind of like listening to you, except that right now I am getting a really bad headache. Hello, friends who always welcome me, and keep dinner warm for me, even though it is a school night, and always stay up late with me, drinking wine and catching up.  Hello, work. Hello, sushi. Hello, Lord & Taylor sale rack.

Goodbye, over $100, which I somehow spent in two days, on… a few cups of coffee and   a couple sushi rolls, it seems like.

Hello, Tuesday night. Time to get back on the train and head north.

It doesn’t hit me until I get out of the truck in my driveway, two and a half hours later, that I am home. That first moment of fragrant electric air or the mass of stars pressing down or one of the cats running out of the woods to meow at me. Lately it is the lush sounds of peepers and mockingbirds cooing in the woods, and then the slice of pizza and glass of wine and the living room light waiting for me.

Hello, home. I can’t wait to wake up tomorrow. We have such great things to do. I’ve been planning for the last two days.

Read On, Reader...