Intimate Strangers: Immigration to Queens
As rode the number 7 train to Queens late one winter afternoon, I watched the other people in the car and jotted down some impressions in my notebook.
It's cold and the light is already gray. The car is full of Latina women in wool overcoats, carrying bulging, lumpy handbags, things picked up on the way home from work, the afternoon shift just ended. It's after school. There are teenagers on the train too, boys and girls -- black, Asian, Latino most of them. Talking in English to one another, slipping into Spanish, back and forth. Mostly English. The guys dressed in baggy pants, black shoes.F18
There's a man practicing English, moving his finger along the lines of his workbook. People passing the time reading the paper -- the New York Post, the Daily News, the occasional El Diario, the Chinese or Korean papers. People reading small Bibles they can tuck into their pockets. Very few with books. Women reading magazines -- health, beauty, true crime stories.
At night the train is full. Indians, Mexicans, Chinese, Colombians, Koreans. Guys in leather or nylon jackets, getting off work in restaurants, stores, factories at one or two in the morning. Leaving the train and walking home, usually alone, looking down, looking at no one.
There are some Asian men in some kind of betting game with coins. Hold out their hands -- bet on the number of coins -- on their combinations, on predictions of how many will be held out? The Latino men looking on, interested, amused. I fall asleep, and wake up on a quiet train.1