It was 3 a.m. and the stairs to the 6 train at Bleecker Street sported one of those pink plastic ribbons tied to the railing with a handwritten sign that read: "No Uptown 6. Next station." Bolstered by a light buzz and a "Hey beautiful, I like your vibe" compliment from a music producer on my way out of a party, this momentary setback didn’t bother me. But it was August and it was hot. Beads of sweat tickled my back as I walked from Bleecker to Astor Place, where I found yet another sign: "No 6 train. Walk up to Union Square." Six blocks later, I arrived and found dozens of other weary nighttime travelers drooped over benches, leaning on columns and squatting on the floor. I looked around and weighed my options before choosing a spot.
Like any good New Yorker, I avoided eye contact and concentrated only on feet. At least half the women in the station were propped up on heels that made walking look acrobatic. I watched as they shifted their weight from left to right, removed bare feet from wedges a size too small and rubbed sore toes. One such pair of girls teetered around, each one having a harder time staying upright than the other. Nearby, a triplet of girls stood in moccasins and 1980s gear—gym shorts with white trim, lacy blouses and bright red lipstick—one of whom sipped on a massive can of Sapporo. Finally, the 6 train arrived, masquerading as the 4. "This train will be making all local stops," announced the recording. We all boarded.
I took a seat near the door, while the Teeterers grabbed poles in front of me with one hand and held chicken gyros in the other. The Lipsticks filled in the doorway to my right. Across from us in the opposite doorway was a homeless man struggling with three bags bursting with cans. They were not just huge. Have you seen Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory? Remember that little brat Violet Beauregarde, who turns into a blueberry balloon after chewing a piece of experimental three-course-dinner gum? Well, each bag was about Violet-sized. At the upcoming stops, there was room for only one person at a time to squeeze out between the door and the recyclables. Everyone was drunk. It wasn’t long before the show began.
First, Lipstick Number One dropped her Sapporo as the train lurched at 28th Street and the suds formed a stream down the center of the car. Then, Teeterer Number One began her tirade. "This train is so dead! Why is everyone so quiet? Am I yelling?" Teeterer Number Two also thought she was still at the party. "I know. People are soooo boring. Uuuugh, I can’t eat my gyro. I don’t have any hands." Lipsticks One, Two and Three rolled their eyes and straddled the Sapporo river.
"Am I being really loud? Am I annoying people?" burped Teeterer Number One, to no one in particular. Lipstick Number Two had had it. "Yes, you’re loud and obnoxious," she retorted. "And ugly."
It was on. "Oh and you’re really attractive in your grandma shirt. Oh, my God, you guys are so cool. I wish I was as cool as you," Teeterer Number One blurted out, falling backward. Teeterer Number Two helped her up, but didn’t offer much verbal support. Everyone on the train watched the five girls go at it, delirious and grateful for the late night diversion.
"Why don’t you sit your ugly ass down and shut up?" continued Lipstick Number Two. A legitimate question, I thought. I mistakenly made eye contact with Teeterer Number One and she asked me personally if I thought she was being obnoxious. I shrugged and told her, very politely, that she was.
At 77th Street, the Lipsticks had to squeeze by the Teeterers to exit. The car was still as Lipstick Number Two stared down Teeterer Number One and then wound up like a major league pitcher and swung, hard. I’ve seen many fights in schools, on train platforms and on the street, but I have never seen a girl spank another on the ass with such gusto. A messy scuffle broke loose in the open train doorway. Can-man hung onto his day’s work for dear life. Cell phones and purses were separated from their owners and one uneaten chicken gyro with extra white sauce flew up into the air before splattering in pieces all over a seat, miraculously missing several laps by mere inches. Lipstick Number Two smiled a wide, taunting, red-lipped grin and gave the finger as she pranced backward on the platform with her entourage, all laughing.
The train was silent. A couple of passengers got up so that the spanked one could sit in her saucy mess. The girls traded bewildered and helpless statements at a noticeably lower volume than before. They were deflated. No phone, no bag, no gyro, nothing. Teeterer Number One and I made eye contact once again. "Was it worth it?" I asked her.
She looked up at her friend and whined, "Why is she the only one talking to us?"