When I was a kid, my mom and I took the train from New York to Richmond, Virginia to enjoy the southern hospitality of my dad’s
family for a week. I spent the long hours of travel gazing out the window, wondering about the lives of people who lived in tumble
down shacks situated near the railway. Sometimes I could peer into windows without shades and get a glimpse of a table or a wood
crate, a baby being held close to a thin body. Boys waved to the train as it passed, I imagined they were wondering where we came
from, what we would do once we arrived at our destination. Sometimes the boys ambled past accompanied by an all-American dog,
occasionally rough-housing with each other. Once I spied an elderly man sitting on his porch, newspaper covering his face, cane at his
side. He woke as we passed and I thought I saw—perhaps it was my imagination taking over—a dark look pass slowly over his
A boy—maybe my age—sat swinging his legs at one of the station where the train made a stop. I smiled but he ignored me. When
he stood and I saw he wasn’t any taller than me and weighed less. Did he want to get on the train and leave his town, move to another
state, see the country, find out about the world. Find someplace where there was plenty to eat, and more to see than trains rumbling
past. A shinier future. Something he could believe in. The train passed fields--I saw a cow lunching on grass--my first cow and a horse
as bony as the boy and I wished, wished I had the power to make his life better.
Some days I take the bus at Port Authority and watch a kaleidoscope of humanity rushing through on their way to who knows
where. People stopping for a minute to pick up a free newspaper. Military personnel and police studying everyone who passes.
Teenagers talking on their cell phones, ignoring everyone trying to get by. Derelicts opening the heavy doors that lead into the
concourse, holding out a hand hoping for a tip that would buy them a coffee or something to eat. Men and women in suits, carrying
leather briefcases and looking important—are they bankers, lawyers, engineers? Women with accents that make me try to guess which
country they left to make a home here. Aides? Housekeepers? A visitor taking a bus to a hospital or home to visit a sick friend or
I want to know more about them all, their lives, their hopes, their dreams and when I get home I will sit at my computer and make
up a story that will tell me about their lives.