This morning, the morning subway commute was less crowded than I am used to. I stepped on to find a little girl in a wildflower pink and purple dress. She had huge blue eyes. Pink arm warmers wrinkled to her elbows. Dozens of light brown braids were fastened with rainbow crystal hair ties.
“We are on the city,” she told her mother.
“In the city,” she corrected.
“We are in the city, Gilly Gil!” She called out, fanned her arms, spun around the metal pole. She paced the small space, back and forth, babbled incessantly, like a song. The rush of crescendo. The whispering, skipping little notes. She spoke to herself, to her mother, to the train, to this Gilly Gil, whoever Gilly Gil might be, until suddenly she marched up to me.
“We are in the city,” she said. Her severe stare, such a sharp focus, so determined. “We are on the bus, the plane, the car.”
“Or the train.” I smiled.
“The B Train!” She shouted, sent her arms soaring to the ceiling.
“The F Train,” her mother corrected.
“To the Central Park zoo!”
“To camp, actually,” her mother said.
“Or the zoo.”
“Not the zoo.”
And again, that stare. How did her mother handle this stare? Day in, day out, this blazing blue, turned grey, turned cold, turned certain. She was defiant. “We are on the city.”
I wondered, what she was trying to sort out in her Dr. Seuss riddled way. Being in a city, on a train, going to a zoo, or not a zoo, speaking to me, a stranger, or to this invisible (or perhaps not so invisible) Gilly Gil. How strange and, at the same time, wonderful, to be caught up in a trick of semantics, trying to place herself somewhere.