The Stations of the Cross on the A Train, Part Three

—Continued from Friday

My morning commute to work on the New York City subway during a heat wave made for some telling reflections on the first seven Stations of the Cross. Surely my trip home at day’s end won’t cast me in a better light.

VIII. 14th Street: The Women of Jerusalem Mourn for Our Lord

I’m back on the platform after the kind of day at work that evokes the first version of Joseph Brodsky’s “Lines for the Winter Recess,” a stark two-line couplet I heard him read when I was in college: “Sitting at my desk, / My life is grotesque.”

Notice it was the women who mourned for Jesus. What about the men? Were they off somewhere else, lamenting instead their own lives of quiet desperation, or there on the Via Dolorosa but determined to uphold the cliché that men don’t cry? Dry-eyed as I am when the rest of me is damp, I would do well as the pilgrims did to pray for tears.

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

IX. West 4th Street: Jesus Falls for the Third Time

I remember getting off at this stop one St. Patrick’s Day morning and seeing a drunken college kid pissing off the platform as he walked along it spraying the rails. How badly I wanted to push him in the path of the next oncoming train. There, now you really sprayed the rails. So what was the bigger offense, his public act or my private thought?

If to think the sin is to commit the sin—and I think others just like it over the course of any given day—which one of us is more deserving of the sentence suffered by the One who died for both of us?

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

X. Canal Street: Jesus is Stripped of His Garments

A barefoot man wearing a garbage bag like a tunic passes through the car, grunting and pointing to the crude handwritten sign that hangs around his neck. I once wrote in a poem called “After the Past” (a poem that with my dueling careers no one but my wife will ever read) about one such figure who, “appears on our niggardly behalf to beg for change.”

Whether it is a good, bad, or ugly for a line in a poem, the truth of it endures day after day on this commute: we are all of us beggars for change.

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

XI. Chambers Street: Jesus is Nailed to the Cross

I bear the infinitesimal stigmata of a paper cut. “In your struggle against sin,” goes the verse of Hebrews 12:4, “you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” No, I have not. Though I’m not sure I’ve ever taken note of the word yet.

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

XII. Fulton Street: Jesus Dies

To think he gave his life for the man in a tank top and Jets cap who won’t even give up his seat for the pregnant woman who just boarded the train. There’s a log in my own eye, a forest in fact, for every speck in his. Wood enough for a fresh cross every day of the week.

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

XIII. High Street: Jesus is Taken Down From The Cross

Sometimes I just want to keep going, past my stop. Once, on a hot summer night like this, I did, entranced by the sight of a blind Jewish man led by a German Shepherd onto the train. An image so layered with history, irony, and heartache that I simply kept going past my stop and got off at his, then followed him at a safe distance into a Hasidic neighborhood that seemed situated in a different place and time than the rest of New York.

At one house after the next, families were gathered on porches under the lights talking, laughing, sweeping, stroking beards—simply being together. And the banality appeared magical.

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

XIV. Jay Street-Metro Tech: Jesus is Laid in the Sepulchre

“If you see something, say something,” goes the post-9/11 civic dictum for riders like me. Squeezed on every side with my hand clutching the greasy, germy pole as the train comes to my stop, I see my reflection in the subway door. I do not say “Bradford Winters,” though many a day he’s an enemy of the state—the state of grace.

I cross the platform and wait for my transfer to the F train that will finally take me home.

F for forgiveness.

Then F for fugetaboutit.

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

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.


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