The ride home was at once interminably hot and also strangely tranquil. The woman sat uncomfortably on the un-airconditioned 7 Train as it wound and squealed its way through the blackened tunnels of Manhattan and on into the elevated sunlight of Queens.
"Flushing, Main Street," the static-filled announcement heralded.
She got wearily to her feet, along with the burgeoning sweaty crowd. The Pakistani man who had sat next to her most of the way had unknowingly had his elbow poking her in her swollen stomach.
Eight-and-a-half months pregnant, she felt the summer heat at least three times as much as everyone else (she was sure of it!) and the crush of bodies in the claustrophobic space of the train car was suffocating.
But she was so used to it – the rocking and swaying, an urban rhythm she had grown to love. The woman had two precious pieces of cargo. One was, of course, the baby growing in her belly, and the other, her two-year-old son strapped securely on her back. He was always delighted by the daily trip home, his tiny gentle hands often stroking the cheek or touching the earrings of the person sitting next to him and his mother.
She took the stairs up and out to the street, slowly, of course, due to her ripened condition and the wiggling parcel on her back. People were patient with her slowness, a miracle in such a city where afternoon rush hour was not known for its manners. They smiled as they took in the front of her and smiled again to see the passenger on her back.
The street, which could have been a market square in any number of Asian or Central American cities, was teeming with life. The sidewalks were artificially narrowed by vendors hawking their fans, umbrellas, baseball hats and cotton chinese shoes.
She passed this particularly congested area and, smiling, turned into an ice cream shop, soon exiting with a large cone (with sprinkles). She shared the messy melting treat with her son. who patted her shoulder whenever he wanted another lick. They walked the mile home in companionable chatter.
Her daily journey, however wearying, became her happiest moments, and, later, one of her happiest memories.