I have had very few and limited occasions to ride in a subway since then, but that was my first experience. I remembered it felt like being on a school bus when I was a kid, being jostled around, and having to have a firm grip on my possessions lest they go flying across the dirty aisle and land in someone’s dirty lap. I enjoyed a moment of gratitude that I had not brought my purse.
My eyes grew wider with every stop the train made and Husband said simply, “Not yet.” Wife just giggled, often, because she was in on the plan, and delighted in what she was certain would be a wonderful surprise. Buddy and I just kept rolling our eyes at each other and shrugging a lot.
Passersby would have seen two ordinary couples, but Buddy and I weren’t together that way. We were best friends before this adventure and we remained best friends for some time afterward. I credit him for making sure I met my own husband. Buddy and I eventually fell out of touch though, as friends often do, but that night he was my rock. I didn’t care if passersby thought we were together, and I probably would not have corrected them if a verbal assumption had been made.
Buddy was with me during my very first airplane trip, too. He taught me how to navigate the airports and the security lines and how to properly time actual boarding. He also taught me how to install a ceiling fan, but that, too, is another story for another time.
We were in Baltimore, traveling rapidly underground to some unknown place. The signs at all the stops told me we were getting closer and closer to Washington. The people getting on and off the train were in varying degrees of cleanliness and showed different levels of grooming. The closer we got to DC, and the later in the evening it became, the scarier the people began to look.
Finally we were released from the train and started up toward the street. The city loomed large above me as I climbed the stairs out of what felt like a very crowded snow globe, and I marveled at all the lights and noise, the hustle and bustle, even at this hour, which for me was incredibly late. For them, it sounded like their evening was just beginning.
“Now where?” I’d given up on dinner, and was way outside my comfort zone.
“Yeah, what now, Chief?” Buddy backed me up.
Wife giggled again. She really was a woman of very few words. Husband ignored us all. He was standing by the street trying to get the attention of a cab driver. When he managed to flag one successfully, we all piled in. Husband, Wife and I sat in the backseat. Buddy sat up front with the driver. I don’t know why it should, but having him up there gave me some sense of comfort. I figured if we had a rogue cabby, like in some movie I’d seen, and the guy went all monkey and started behaving erratically, Buddy would be right there beside him to regain control of the cab. Of this I was certain.
The cabby, in very broken English, sought direction from Husband. Husband said he wanted to show us the White House. Immediately, with all the secrecy employed by him thus far, I was scared of what he’d do when we got there. More movies, I suppose.
We saw the White House from a distance, we saw the capitol, and we stopped at various other popular points of interest. I began to worry about the cab fare. Fifty cents a pop to get on the train was one thing, but this was about to be one hellacious tab, a tab for which I was in no position to contribute.
I voiced my concern. Husband said he had it covered, and that we shouldn’t worry about it. And indeed, when we finally exited the cab, Husband paid the cabbie in cash.
We were on a busy downtown sidewalk, in late evening that was already dark, in the hub of the District. The smells, the noise, the people – all foreign to my heretofore holler honey existence.
And so we walked the sidewalks some more. In the chilly night air, I looked up at the sky and saw it completely blank of moon or stars, only a dark canvas, empty.
“Not to be a bitch, but can I ask where we’re going now?”
“You’ll see. You’ll love it, I promise.”