Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Last curtain call on the circle line

"Not that you need to know this..." He takes a deep breath, and his white captain's uniform strains across his less-than-shipshape torso, "but I have a Masters degree in dramatic art."
Those who are listening raise their eyebrows dutifully. The rest continue their efforts to stifle screaming toddlers and elbow themselves some space at the railing so they can spend the next hour and a half filming a wobbly version of the Manhattan skyline.
"Yes, I came to the city, and took this very tour. Many years ago." He smiles wearily and shakes his head. "All I can say folks is to be careful what you wish for."
We laugh nervously, but he's gazing out across the water at the hard glass shapes casting their shadows over the Hudson. He says it again, but this time the forced tour-guide cheeriness has leached out of his voice. He sounds less worldly than when he was talking about losing friends to Aids ("that terrible disease"), less stoic than when he told us of the remains that are still being found at Ground Zero ("it used to be 60/40 unidentified, but recently, through technological advances, they've reversed that percentage"). Two decades on, the boats of the circle line are his stage, and we his captive audience.
He moves the microphone closer to his lips.
"Just be careful what you wish for."

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