Saturday, April 11, 2015

Here's to You, Pam

Standing on the 4/5 train subway platform at 86th Street, she was a petite woman with a light brown pixie cut. In front of her eyes sat emerald-colored frames and around her lithe, little frame was wrapped a puffy raisin-colored coat that, well, also made her look kind of like a raisin. Her skin, toned perhaps a shade darker from the sun, laid in soft creases on her face and hands. She wore jeans, and funny little black, squarish, leather mary janes on her feet.

She waited for the train next to the poster for BAM's The Iceman Cometh starring Brian Dennehy and Nathan Lane, and then a man walked by, to stand on the other side of the poster. He was tall, with whitish-silver hair that ran down his neck. His eyes, like hers, creased behind a pair of frameless glasses as he turned to look at the poster. She saw him turn to look, and after a few seconds she said something like, "It looks good, doesn't it?"

"Yeah!" he said. He was visiting from out of town and was looking for some things to do on his trip. He had lived in New York for 30 years, he said, but then picked up everything and moved to Los Angeles and has now lived there for 30 years. He likes the weather much better there, he says. On a frigid winter day like this one, as I stand under the ground with a bunch of other people clutching their arms in desperate attempts for even miniscule warmth, I cannot blame him.

She moves closer and asks more about his trip (for business), and how long he is in town. By this time, I'm guessing she has already noticed he is not wearing a wedding ring. They chat, converse easily, and the train comes. We all get in the same car, and I try to cling to the last gasps of wireless that make my music come through my headphones, but to no avail. Instead, I listen to their conversation. Like a real creep, maybe, but I'd argue it's really more of just being someone whose work regularly involves observing others. At this point, it's not something I can just turn off. I'm really happy this time I didn't. I stared straight ahead, pretending not to listen, every so often turning my head to see their faces.

They hold onto the same pole. She asks questions and he responds, and vice versa. "I'm Pam, by the way," she says, holding out a slim, wrinkled hand. I forget his name now, but let's call him Phil. "Phil," he says. "Very nice to meet you, Pam." Pam guides the conversation deftly, never an awkward "Um," "Ah," "Er" or what have you. She is from Brooklyn, born and raised. He is from Manhattan originally. Chat turns back to The Iceman Cometh. He was thinking of going, he said. It might be nice to have something to do one of the nights I'm here.

"I hope you don't think I'm too forward," Pam says without missing a beat. "But I'd love to go with you if you happen to go."

Flustered for a moment, he offers a non-committal, "Yeah, well, I really don't know what I'm doing, so..."and I sort of hate him. I have a moment of stepping out of myself and realizing how invested I am in Pam's conquest. But she appears completely unphased by the comment and stands there confidently. Seeing her, and almost embarrassed by his own attempt at nonchalance, he fumbles with his phone, a silver Blackberry-looking thing he says he still doesn't know how to operate very well and says, "But let me get your number and I'll let you know." In my brain I think, "Go Pam Go! Go Pam Go!" She recites her phone number and he types it in diligently as we zoom between the 42nd Street and 14th Street stops.

At 14th Street, Pam says this is her stop and that she has to go. "Maybe I'll see you soon," she says to Phil, calm and cool. I also have to get off at this stop, and while I'm waiting to go up the stairs, Pam happens to be next to me. "Good for you!" I say to her.
"You heard that entire thing?" she laughs, slightly embarrassed.
"Yeah, it was awesome!" I said. "I haven't had the nerve to do something like that in my entire life."
She smiles and laughs.
"I'd call you!" I say, smiling back and walking away from her to catch the L."Have a good day!"

I don't know if Phil ever called her, but I hope he did. I have visions of them wearing black turtlenecks and slacks and bundled under their coats walking in to see Nathan Lane and Brian Dennehy fully immersed into O'Neillian misery. But more than that, I have visions of Pam walking through the Union Square train station smiling a little to herself and thinking, "I still got it!"