Between Six and Seven


Flashing darkness rolls by as

world swaying, feet tilting to match the heartbeat

windows filling with light, glowing faces of

perfect, stoic strangers

nasal voice stumbling, Grand Central Station

weary-eyed people straightening, grubby hands wrapping around purses and handles and

backpacks too full to be true ¾

tiniest rumbling doors growl open and

a hurricane shoves through.

Elbows digging into me, knocking as I cast a wary

glance behind me to see if I have dropped

Latin textbook, maybe, or a stray looseleaf paper

Wade in the shallows, swimming

Annoyed at

hobbling old ladies whose scarves blow in my face

that head-touching-ceiling guy, above the rest

and the rest





screaming train entering the station

pressing index finger meekly to my ear

dodging stares


Yes. Yes they are.

¾ never mind

rounding a corner plastered with wine slogans and

rushing people


salmon going upstream

my ears tingle with something

a-a violin


woman standing in the corner, hair pinned up

flowing dress sweeping the tiles, scraping horsehair again and again

across taut strings, case at her heeled feet, instrument dutifully


and singing

and singing again

reluctant to stare, I

am swept up the ramp and up side stairs

to the six train without a look back.


I don’t see her today.

rushing up the platform

storm of raucous laughter erupts to my right

smirking at what, I don’t know + I don’t care

x-ing them out in my mind

math homework, undone

currently resting in my overweight backpack

almost late for school

stumbling up the ramp, legs heavy with what seems like

a hundred thousand stairs


plastic folding table

a woman, perched next to her nest, glasses glinting like magpie eyes

scarves (so that’s where those old ladies get their scarves!)

purses drowning in sequin

sweaters splayed lifelessly over ¾


knowing nothing more, turning to more

train swishing in above, rumbling like an glass-half-empty-sort-of stomach

cramped legs buzzing beneath me.


Blue bag swinging in hand

Other hand pressing against window

Grand Central rolls past, fluorescent lights glowing in a hearth of noise

exploding out

down stairs, journeying through figments, flashes of

bright clothes

rustling coats brush against me, a pinprick of pain when

touching the metal handrail

mindlessly going with the swarm

glancing at sweet temptation

fried bread-things rolled in sugar

in a plastic box on wheels squeaking down the ramp

to a stop.


No Time

sprinting for the distant ding

of sliding doors

late again to swimming class

thinking about whether the water would be cold


or inbetween.


Crunch of rolling shoulders + stretching back

Flexing sore arm muscles as they


backpack sandwiched between my legs

leaning against the door

watching tunnel walls slide by in my own personal movie theater


monotone of opening doors

hoisting backpack clumsily

searching for the seven train

and red diamond for express

I’m early for once.

I slow, get within mere inches of the new spectacle

a man

ramrod perfection in threadbare jacket

thin trace of mustache

worn features

holding out a baseball cap in a calloused hand

eyes, almost gimlet, bright

ruffled, subway-blown hair with more salt than pepper

Change. Spare change please.

Bland voice, scientific specimen to passersby

But it’s all in there.

moistening brow

hands, slightly shivering

asking, no pleading

with us

to care

and brandish our Metrocards

look, really look at him

watering, aging eyes

soul, rough around the edges

like a begging child

moaning for Cherry Garcia ice cream

for us to squeeze our cards in anticipation

and gently


gut it through our purses.


It’s late.

Shivery darkness has already gone over the streets in a through cleaning

miniature crowd.

a few, standing at the edge of the platform, staring impatiently

down the tunnel



Some sort of Chinese instrument, that I’ve heard before on T.V.

Guilty for not knowing what it is, being Chinese and all.

seven strings across a wooden board

the girl

yellow shirt

dark hair

people crowding around her in the center of the platform

snapping pictures

filming the instrument

(it must have taken a lot of work to carry that thing so far)

more people glide past

dropping dollars hither and thither

the girl smiles and nods, limber fingers smoothing the strings, stroking them like some

sort of pet.

Do I dare?

Half-circle crowd, surrounding, staring

No one moving


In the simple, lilting melody

i decide.

Taking my green apple wallet out

Only pennies in there, all spent on this week

Doesn’t matter

girl is moving alarmingly closer to me

walk, only hearing

my sneakers tapping on dusty tiles



pennies in the black case

she doesn’t nod

or look at me

eyes lowered to the wood-

-en instrument bottom

looking for all the world like

one of those American-made China dolls

hair covering her face

still yellow-toned legs

fingers dancing faster and faster

this time

I can’t dodge the stares

Screeching train, cover ears

Step in, shoulders bumping into shoulders

Hand wrapping around cool metal pole


Soaring away, swifter and swifter

blurring hurtness

until the brightness disappears.

Michelle Chen, Age 13, Grade 8, Hunter College High School, Gold Key

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s