Night from Saturday to Sunday in the last week of February 1982.
The night after spending the day in foggy and slightly rainy Washington D.C. When I inadvertently came across the back door of the White House, without a line, and I walked through the corridors and halls where decisions are made about the destiny of the world. When on my way to Arlington National Cemetery I got stuck in an elevator at an underground station on the other side of the Potomac River. From where I watched the Pentagon from afar. Walked past the United States Marine Corps War Memorial (Iwo Jima Memorial). Past the grave of JFK and past the graves of thousands of soldiers fallen in all senseless wars.
It was the last day of my monthly Greyhound pass. What to do, I’m not supposed to get to New York until after midnight. The friendly driver and I agreed that since the bus doesn’t stop anywhere until New York, I can’t get off before New York. And off we go.
By the way, Greyhound discontinued the monthly pass a long time ago, unfortunately…
So I arrive early in the morning around three o’clock at Greyhound’s New York Port Authority. At that time, the building was still under construction, only the basement was functional.
Given the early hour, I decided to wait at the station before going to my acquaintances in Queens. However, out of pure curiosity, despite the early hour, I decided to go outside. I put my backpack in the wardrobe and left the station. At that time, 42 Street was not exactly known as a safe place. Anyway, I headed in the direction of Fifth Avenue. Somewhere halfway I noticed some girls, you know which ones. Near them was a black man, broad-shouldered and two heads taller than me, a pimp. Of course, they soon saw that I was just watching and that I was not a potential customer. It got a little uncomfortable, almost scary, but I played being smart and went a little further. Then, as if disinterested, I slowly turned and walked back towards the Greyhound building.
Not to mention that my friends were horrified and told me not to walk around New York at night. This was before Rudy Giuliani.
And so I sit on the bench in the waiting room, alone, single, deafening silence, early Sunday morning. When two black men come and sit to the left and right of me. I pretend to sleep, beanie pushed deep on my forehead, wrapped in a coat.
Suddenly two white policemen appear. They approach the three of us. A scene like in a movie, one policeman slightly behind, with his hands on his hips, the other half a step forward. With an outstretched hand he demands documents or a ticket, first from one, then from another black man. I watch quietly, with my head bowed and my eyes slightly open. Without looking at me, the two policemen, obviously satisfied, left. After a few minutes, the two blacks also got up and left. What and why, I still don’t know to this day.
The morning slowly woke up, I took my luggage and stepped out into the street. The first rays of sunlight played on the facades of Fifth Avenue. The wind rustled around the corners, picking up pieces of paper from the floor. A lonely taxi in the distance. At the end of the canyon, the World Trade Center. An empty avenue on a cold Sunday morning, despite what they say, New York, the city that never sleeps.
I slowly made my way to the underground and towards Queens, where my friends are just waking up. A breakfast and hot strong coffee await me.
Photo of Go Greyhound by Janez B