Punk Rock Girls, Cabbies, and Ghost Strollers
Updated at the bottom
Yesterday, I was waiting outside for the library to open, sweating in the almost 100 degree air, and the twins were chattering on about things. We were standing next to a punk rock teenager who had no concept of personal space and kept sliding herself so our arms could rest against one another even though we were standing outside, in a somewhat infinite space, with only one or two other people. And did I mention that it was 100 degrees?
The punk rock girl kept laughing at everything the twins said; not the light snicker of a stranger overhearing a conversation about the best way to lure mermaids from the ocean, but a deep laugh that conjures tears to the person’s eyes. She kept saying, “they are so funny! They are just so damn funny!” and then appraising me with her eyes, looking me up and down from my grey hairs to my flip flops, as if wondering how a woman like me could parent such kick-ass amusing and sassy children like them.
I wanted to tuck my sweaty arm around her (our arms were already touching so it wouldn’t have been that big a deal to exchange a little more sweat) and said, “sweetie, once upon a time, I was just like you. I went to DC hardcore concerts and danced in the mosh pit and painted my nails black and wore blue lipstick. And this just might happen to you too — the nerdy jeans from LL Bean and the frizzy hair. Even little punk rock girls can turn into this down the line.”
But she was having such a good time listening to their musings about mermaids that I didn’t want to burst her little Manic Panic bubble.
Because I am now old and grey, I decided to give in to my middle-agedness and take a cab when I got off the train in New York for the reading. Up until this point, I’ve always taken the subway, but this time, I went out to the cab stand and blew the ten bucks.
While stopped at a red light, the cab driver rolled down the window and had an excited conversation with the cab driver in the car next to ours; a series of excited exclamations in Amharic. He rolled back up the window as the car started again and apologized for the conversation.
“Why are you apologizing?” I asked.
“I didn’t mean to do that, but I was so excited to see him,” he explained. “I never see him, and suddenly he was right there at the red light.”
The cab driver informed me that this was unusual. That in a city as large as New York, while cab drivers knew other cab drivers, it was unlikely that two people would pull up to the same red light at the same time and get to have one of those moments. I witnessed something incredibly rare, something that only occurs (at least for this cab driver) once every few months.
It made my day perhaps as much as it made his.
While I sat in Starbucks, waiting for my brother to be done with meetings so I could work in his office, Josh sent me an article from the New York Times about a ghost stroller.
Sometimes the passers-by look curious; sometimes they are distraught, concerned by the three plastic roses — peach, pink and red — tucked behind the straps, which give the stroller the distinct look of a memorial commemorating some grim accident … Who went to the effort of painting the stroller that uncomfortably chalky Mylanta white — taking a paint brush to the cup holder, the bag zipped in back, the mesh basket below, even the chain and padlock attaching it to the parking sign. People at the New York City Street Memorial Project, which installs most of the “ghost bikes” — white-painted bikes throughout the city that commemorate sites where cyclists have been killed — said they had no idea who had installed the stroller. And a police spokesman could find no record of a fatal car accident this summer in the area.
It’s impossible to read the article and not think of our blogs in the same vein — infertility blogs (especially loss blogs) as the white painted strollers of the Internet. The ones people would rather rush past without noticing, that make people wonder, that make people a tad uncomfortable.
This past weekend, we were with people who don’t know us at all and they questioned if twins run in the family. “No,” I said in the same matter-of-fact voice I always use, the same one I use to give directions to the nearest Starbucks or say hello to people at the food store. “The twins are the product of fertility treatments.”
The woman looked as if I had just taken an enormous dump on her plate of pasta and proclaimed it a meatball. She sputtered around for a moment and then said, “I see,” even though she wasn’t even looking at them or me anymore. And then she changed the subject.
I’ve never seen the stroller, but I’ll be in Park Slope tonight, and I’m going to take a pilgrimage out there if it isn’t a pain in the ass. Someone made it, someone placed it out there, it’s on someone else’s mind. The very least I can do is look at it. Abide with it. Learn something from it.
After dinner, we walked back to my brother’s apartment, crossing through 6th and Union. We searched all four street corners, walking down each block a bit, but the stroller was gone. A film crew was speaking outside the bar mentioned in the article. But that was the only hint that something had once been there.
When we got back to my brother’s apartment, he looked it up online and apparently, someone cut the padlock and threw the stroller in a dumpster on Monday night. A crossing guard saved the stroller and moved it in front of a school on Berkeley Place. We didn’t see it when we were walking around last night.
I know it’s silly, but I wanted to see it.