I wake up before the alarm. Through un-curtained windows, the morning light is already pouring in, filling the room with a warm glow. There are birds chirping away happily in the trees just outside my window. It’s so very quiet.
I pad across the room to the bathroom, thinking about how we’ll need to get a rug for this floor. I can’t quite find everything as I shower and get ready for the day, but I’ll get used to it. Everything will find its place. I will, too.
Kid’s awake. Breakfast time.
Everyone eats in the kitchen, and we pause to watch a wild turkey walk through the backyard, bobbing its head with every step. Soon I’m walking through the garage to head off to work. I pass the car, and pull on a helmet as I swing my bike around pointing outward. Though it’s going to be very hot this day, it’s still cool in the morning and the air is laden with the distinctive smell of dew on grass.
I’d forgotten how much fun it is to glide down the street on a bike. I haven’t ridden for any amount of time since getting my driver’s license in high school. Turning left at the end of my street, it’s a straight shot down into town and the train station. I ride down the empty road, smiling in the breeze. Peddling up a small rise, coasting down the other side, I’m going fast but am in no rush. It takes me six minutes to arrive at the train station, precisely.
A long, empty train sits on the tracks next to the platform. My station is either the last stop before NYC for express trains, or the originating station for semi-local trains. The difference in transit time between the two is five minutes. I opt for the local, which means the train is always there waiting for me, I can sit anywhere. Stuffing my helmet in my backpack, I pick a window seat on the right side, facing backward.
“7:49 to Grand Central. 7:49 to Grand Central. Mamaroneck next.”
The conductor is always brief at the beginning and talkative at the end. It’s as if he, too, is using this time to wake up and get ready for the day. The doors close, and the train quietly pulls forward. Sun dapples through the trees and in the windows, newspapers rustle, I lean my head back and listen to a podcast. I close my eyes as the train rounds a turn and the sun shines on my face. We stop at Mamaroneck. Larchmont. Then continue on to Grand Central. When the conductor comes by checking tickets, we all hold our monthly passes for him to see. He quietly says, “Good morning,” down the whole length of the train.
“This is Grand Central. Grand Central. Good morning to all, it’s a beautiful day in New York City. We’re arriving on track 29, upper level. The weather’s going to be another hot one, high of 89 degrees. But you’re in the greatest city in the world, and starting a new day, so it can’t be all that bad. Yankees are playing the Tigers today. Don’t forget to check you seats, check the racks, check the floors, for all your belongings. Grab a bagel and some coffee, and have a great day here in New York City. It’s another beautiful day in the Big Apple.”
Told you he was talkative. I imagined myself walking into the expansive waiting hall every day, under the star-painted ceiling and dodging the throngs of people. But that’s not actually how it goes. There’s a back stairway on the train platform if I’m near the back of the train, and it goes to another corridor connecting all the platforms that I’d never known about before, aptly called “Grand Central North.” I walk along the corridor to the west end, emerging up an escalator on 47th Street.
It’s two blocks to my office, the second block being the “Diamond District” on 47th. At this time, it’s a busy block with sellers and collectors arriving, taking deliveries, and chatting over coffee on the sidewalk. The windows fill up with glittering jewelry and sparkling diamonds as I walk along, as shop keepers set out their displays for the day. Crossing the wide avenue in front of my office building, I smell something fresh baking. Yes, I will have a bagel.