Table for One: Ferry Ride from Greenpoint
A few days ago, I found myself aboard a ferryboat as it pulled away from the dock in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Most passengers were at the back of the boat, but I had discovered a private little spot at the ferry’s bow, where the captain couldn’t see me. I was sitting on top of a large metal container, puzzling over whether or not I was justified in feeling as though I had really discovered the spot — surely I wasn’t the first to sit there.
Coming across the ferry to begin with had sort of felt like a discovery too. I had found it at the end of a desolate street entirely void of the usual indications of public transportation, with the exception of a large and lonely sign planted beside the boarding ramp that confirmed that this was the place to board the ferry.
You would have to be blind to need that sign, I had thought to myself. But then again, if you were blind I suppose the sign wouldn’t really do you any good anyhow.
I had shut my eyes and was trying to imagine what it might be like to be a blind ferry passenger when I heard somebody approaching. It was two somebodies: a man and a little girl I could only assume was his daughter.
The boat shuddered into reverse. “Are these guys professionals?” the girl asked. She couldn’t have been older than seven. I looked over at the man expectantly, anticipating an exchange of looks, a mutual acknowledgement of his daughter’s sweet naiveté, but he didn’t seem to notice me at all.
It was just the three of us up there, and although I had discovered the spot, I suddenly felt as though I was the one intruding.
“Your Mom would have loved this, is she missing out or what?” said the man to the little girl. He was holding back her hair so that she could see the Manhattan skyline. I imagined the mother at home doing mundane things. Probably the kind of person who gets seasick easily.
“You’ve got to get her to take you again next weekend. I’m going to call her, I want you to tell her how much fun you’re having.”
“The water looks like air under the blanket,” said the girl, peering over the edge.
He was on the phone now, saying, “Why not? She wants you to take her next weekend — No, she’s not seasick. I told her you can buy tickets on the boat if there’s a line. I— fine. Yes, I’ll have her home in a few hours. Bye.”
Divorced, I speculated, and was suddenly sure of it. I watched them depart at Wall Street.
“What’s the next stop?” I asked the captain.
“Governor’s Island, last stop.”
I grabbed my bag and headed for the exit. As I began to walk the 30 blocks to my apartment, I couldn’t stop thinking about the man, the little girl, and the faceless mother. And something the man had said to his daughter kept repeating in my head:
“Don’t worry. If anybody’s going overboard it’s me, not you.”