Wednesday, April 25, 2007

I was leaving the No. 1 subway line in Times Square on my way to grab the shuttle to Grand Central. I was already late, and I was deliberately wearing the I-am-a-New-Yorker game face of the would-be anonymous man, distant and apart, eyes carefully lowered, never connecting with anyone else, neither granting nor receiving signals from other humanoids.

As I started to get off the train, the transit cop who had been riding in the same car and who had, I thought, been staring at me, came over. "You're Halberstam, aren't you?" he asked. I said I was. He had been one of my readers, he said, since he came back from Vietnam, where he had served with the First Cav, one of the most famous units to fight there. My books had helped him in that difficult time when he had just returned, and he wanted to thank me for them.

For a brief moment, both of us, all the while moving at the relentless, unfaltering speed of true New Yorkers, closed the gap between writer and reader. We did this on the move, leaving one train, hustling our way to another, never a stop lost because of the social amenity of this new instant friendship; the first law of the shuttle, whether it is the subway or the Washington or Boston shuttle, is that it must not be missed.

rest in peace, david halberstam