Stations of the Cross on the A Train, Part Two

In the first installment of this essay, I told of a project by a British artist that had recently come to my attention with perfect timing: a paper-cut booklet titled Stations of the King’s Cross that maps fourteen devotions to commemorate Christ’s Passion along the fourteen stops of the Circle Line on the London Underground—a circuit that fittingly ends at King’s Cross station.

Why perfect timing? Because it’s summer in New York City, this dreaded time of year when one’s travels in the infernal subway system shine a very bright light in that underground oven on just how much of a spiritual turkey you are. Or chicken. Or shrimp.

Jesus walked the Via Dolorosa to a slow, excruciating death and did not make a peep; I take the A train to work in a flailing economy and return kvetching to my wife that this time, this summer, my sweaty, smelly, cattle-car commute just may be the death of me.

Having realized that my weekday round-trip between Brooklyn and Manhattan numbers fourteen stops on the A Train, I decided to apply the devotions to my corresponding itinerary.

In that spirit: All aboard. And by all, I mean all of me.

I. Jay Street-Metrotech: Jesus is Condemned to Death

The summer solstice brings with it a two-day heat wave pushing one hundred degrees, surely a sign of worse to come in July and August. I’m waiting on the platform for an air-conditioned train that can’t come fast enough in this foul sauna, and though I don’t really want to die, you know what I mean. I just took a shower. There’s already sweat creeping down my backside. Why do I even live here? What the hell am I doing with my life?

Perhaps exactly what Manhattan transplant and evangelical pastor and author Tim Keller says: “We want to feel significant and that’s why we’re working so hard and that’s the source of the evil…. Why are you in New York? Deep down, you think something is wrong with you.”

V (versicle). We adore You, O Christ, and we bless You.
R (response). Because by Your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.

II. High Street: Jesus Receives the Cross

This heavy effing knapsack. With its heavy effing laptop. And barely enough room to put it between my feet on the crowded car. I know it’s better for the back than all the better-looking shoulder bags in my midst, but it makes me feel like I’m in high school at the tender age of forty. “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” Eff it: I’m going for the MacBook Air and a shoulder bag. Or maybe a briefcase. Or is all this symptomatic of the fact that ultimately I’m going for the body bag?

V. We adore You, O Christ, and we bless You.
R. Because by Your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.

III. Fulton Street: Jesus Falls for the First Time

I almost do the same when leaning down to remove a book from my bag. The upside to the subway for any working parent: free time to read. Today it happens to be Thomas Friedman’s From Beirut to Jerusalem for research on a screenplay. Research. The word lingers and divides into its syllabic halves: to search again.

As urged by Jeremiah: “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me; when you seek me with all your heart.” I put the book down.

V. We adore You, O Christ, and we bless You.
R. Because by Your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.

IV. Chambers Street: Jesus Meets His Mother

There’s a woman sitting in the throng who tries to be inconspicuous when she pulls a breast pump from her bag and slips it under her blouse. I thought I’d seen all there is to see on the New York City subway, but I haven’t seen this. When my wife was pregnant I often jokingly claimed Couvade syndrome, in which a husband experiences some of the same symptoms as his expectant spouse. But seeing this mother, I too, swell with life to the point that it hurts.

V. We adore You, O Christ, and we bless You.
R. Because by Your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.

V. Canal Street: Simon Helps Jesus to Carry His Cross

Call me the Embarrassed Samaritan, seeing how self-conscious I am to simply pull out my wallet and remove a dollar bill for a homeless person. Better when I’m prepared with bills already folded in my pocket. That way it isn’t such a production. That way even I barely notice the transaction. Once a man hugged me for the entire car to see. And it served me right. It served me right.

V. We adore You, O Christ, and we bless You.
R. Because by Your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.

VI. West 4th Street: Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus

I envy the Hasidim in their black hats and black garb whatever the weather, nibbling at the Torah in their morning devotions the way the rest of us might nibble at a croissant. As the poet Jack Gilbert writes in “Leporello on Don Giovanni,” regarding St. Francis: “God is not optional when faith is like that.” How optional will God be over the course of my day to come?

V. We adore You, O Christ, and we bless You.
R. Because by Your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.

VII. 14th Street: Jesus Falls a Second Time

And I step off the train for work. As if I clearly didn’t have enough already.

V. We adore You, O Christ, and we bless You.
R. Because by Your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.

—To be continued on Monday.

Bradford Winters is a screenwriter and poet, and works for The Levinson/Fontana Company as a producer and writer in television. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and three children.

  • Kristina Colussi

    In a Part One I didnt know what to tell you, but then two days after I realise that I have a fact I want to share. Jesus was sweating with blood for those He cant save. Those who dont want to be saved, and who negate Him. Who have ears to hear – then hear! I am just a small peace of sand – I dont know English very good and I have to translate some words…but I have a heart! Great job Brad!


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