Noho Station by Christian Krauspe

Noho Station by Christian Krauspe


Liam was five when I started dating his
mom it had been a fairly tough bonding process he understood that his dad had
gone away but couldn’t wrap his mind around the idea of a drunk driving
accident just yet I was just someone who showed up who he
didn’t want or asked for and didn’t leave and although he was a fairly sweet
exuberant kid with me he was quiet and anxious and when I tried to interact
with him he would always shyly bury his head into his mom’s chest I thought
maybe something for just me and him might help turn things around so when I
suggested a Lakers game his mom was ecstatic Liam had posters of
Rondo and LeBron covering his walls like most kids in LA so this seemed like the
perfect idea the plan was simple his mom pretended
that Liam had a doctor’s appointment after school but instead would surprise
him and meet me at the North Hollywood subway station ready to go with floor
seat tickets a new purple Lakers hat and a smile when Liam saw me his face
dropped a little but after his mom explained about the game and I showed
him his new hat and promised him pizza and hotdogs his mood picked up right
away I can always tell when he was really happy because his green eyes
would go big and bright his mom turned to go and for the first time he reached
up and grabbed my end a security guy stood outside the entrance to the subway
station finishing a cigarette he gave us a little nod as we approached the
escalator which descended down deep below the busy city streets
Liam looked up and saw the pigeons flying above us who made their homes in
the vast concrete tunnel which delivered us into the underground I looked down at
him and pushed his new purple hat too big for his head down over his green
eyes teasing him he laughed as we got off the long escalator the air became
stale warm with body heat and the slightest hint of garbage a wet cough
echoed from somewhere in the station I bought our fare and headed to the
platform the faces and subway stations all fit
the same profile after a while the young student the elderly woman a couple of
wannabe hip hop kids listening to music solely through an iPhone speaker the
young lovers and the young mom trying to corral a couple children stay close to
me Liam looked up he knew – already next
train will be here in just a couple minutes
a homeless man brushed past us with a phlegm coated hack he was maybe about
fifty with rough sunburnt skin and pastel pink scars on his forehead new
skin covering up the wound he smelled like a mixture of vodka and piss behind
him he dragged three garbage bags full of cans clothes junk who knows what the
homeless man took a seat for himself against the stairwell I did my best to
ignore him like a good Angelino I looked down at Liam Liam was frightened of him
I could tell and if I’m being honest I was probably a little frightened of him
as well you excited for LeBron I asked trying to get his attention
what’s down there Liam was pointing to the train tunnel dark and empty that’s
where the trains come from when our train comes that’s where we’ll go all
the way downtown out of the corner of my eye I saw the homeless man scratching
his forehead digging in with his dirty nails trying to get at the new skin
underneath Liam turned pointing to the opposite
tunnel what about that way I leaned out the subway ledge looking that way I’m
not sure North Hollywood is the last stop so I think that way goes to the
train yard where they fix anything that’s broken I glanced back over my
shoulder the homeless man was looking at me no he wasn’t looking at me he was
looking at Liam he stared at Liam his eyes were watery and dark he scratched
his forehead scratched over the fresh pink scars harder and harder
do people live down here Liam asked Oh No
I laughed trying my best to ignore the homeless men no one lives down here only
pigeons I like them I like the pigeons let’s walk further down the platform I
tugged at his hand pulling him along with me my friend Aaron at school says
people live down here and they still kids and bring him here he said they do
things to them we stopped walking after I found a comfortable place away from
the homeless man between what must have been an art school dropout and a fat
tourist no people don’t take kids and bring them down here sometimes people
don’t have places to stay at night like you and I do sometimes people get down
on their luck and need a place to rest for a few hours so they come down here
sometimes people have it really rough like him like who I looked the homeless
man was standing down the platform from us standing straight ahead and looking
at Liam with a little grin across his sunburnt cheeks it’s okay I said our
trains gonna be here soon but first let’s see if you and me can sneak up on
a pigeon okay we walked further down the platform away
from the groups of people congregating near the ledges it was stupid of me
definitely paranoid I looked back behind us to see if the homeless man was still
there no he wasn’t Christ I thought ahead of us a trio of
pigeons pecked at some old french fries someone spilled on the platform
Liam looked up at me and I winked at him giving him the signal to let go of my
hand and try and tiptoe up next to the birds careful I said actually sounded
like my own dad for a moment Liam crept closer to the pigeons don’t be an idiot
I thought don’t turn around and look he’s not behind you
like an idiot I turned and looked the homeless man stood there 20 feet away
his eyes locked on Liam his forehead had started to spot with blood from the
scratching Liam I reached down for him not taking my eyes off the homeless men
what’s wrong Liam asked trains coming come on I pulled him towards the ledge
the light from the opposite end of the tunnel started to get brighter just get
on the train don’t look back at him get on the train get on the train get on the
train I looked back again he was gone nothing there except other faces
standing gathering for the coming train I looked down at Liam do you think we
should get you a Jersey Liam was gone I could feel panic well up in my bones the
klaxon of the arriving train rang as it pushed warm air against my face Liam
will Liam where’d you go I started to jog down the platform trying to see
everything all at once oh god no please don’t let this be happening Leo the
train slowed to a stop and opened its doors the people waited next to the
opening doors as the other passengers disembarked where did you go Liam please
please not now I heard the cooing of pigeons behind me
and squatting down hand out towards the birds was Liam and his purple Laker Set
thank fucking god I sighed people had started to get on the train I reached
down and grabbed his hand quickly pulling him inside the last train car
before the doors closed I let out a deep breath Jesus we’re gonna take a fucking
uber home Liam climbed up into an empty seat while I grabbed the overhead rail I
think I’m going to eat at least three hot dogs coming here Liam looked up at
me with his eyes his brown eyes this wasn’t Liam my chest went tight as the
train started to pull away from the platform
from the last window of the last train car I saw Liam
bye Liam in the arms of the homeless men he looked so scared as the homeless man
covered his mouth so he couldn’t scream with the other hand the homeless man
waved at me

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