XC.

Do you know the name of this place? It’s what your mother says when she answers the phone.

I look behind me to see a tall graying father talking to his son, maybe eight or ten, in a blue and red ski jacket.

Grand Central?

Yes, this is the real Grand Central.

In every direction, people are moving, in pairs, alone, in small groups and large, pulling suitcases, lugging shopping bags, holding the hands of their children, holding coffee, holding the New York Times.

They look up at at the great boards above the ticket windows, at the old four-faced clock in the center of the hall, at the green-blue ceiling, aquamarine, with its gold constellations. They queue for tickets, at the counter or from the machines. They queue for coffee, for cheesecake – and now, in the new market, for cheeses, for caviar, even. For last minute gifts and gift-wrappings. Some are passing through on mundane errands or morning commutes; for others it’s the first glimpse of New York City.

For years now, the passage entries were watched over by soldiers in fatigues, a reminder of the meaning of the place, that anywhere busy and romantic, commercial and symbolic had become risky, targeted. You could avoid knowing the alert level but you could not avoid seeing the soldiers.

I didn’t see them this year, though. No idea if this means we’re safer, or just less obsessed, or saving money, or fatigued of staying alert. Or if I just missed them.

I also didn’t see signs for the holiday light show, whatever significance or obliviousness that betrays.

Every year when I walk through Grand Central on my way to my parents’ house, I feel a little thrill of romance, that the old New York, the city that people see in movies and dream about, is the place I get to live in, at least in the last few moments before I board my train and leave.

Merry Christmas!

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One Response to “XC.”

  1. This is *nice.

    I got lectured today, an English teacher, tells her students not to say “nice” but rather to be more descriptive.

    This drew me in, made me think about my own walks through the Terminal, drew pictures in slightly different ways than I see them. It made me feel good. This is nice.

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