“Don’t Sleep In The Subway”

As my 72’ Plymouth Valiant pulled into Missy’s driveway with a lurch, I was reminded of another visit to Missy’s a few years previous in high school. My mother caught Missy and I walking down Kings Highway coming back from a Patco Hi Speedline trip to South Street on a weeknight, which we disguised as a trip to the library. We actually snuck into a back door at Pennsylvania Hospital, grabbed a doctor’s coat and a wheelchair, and played a little improvisation game called Doctor Marigold & his sick patient, Beatrice, as we wheeled around the hospital craving attention. How did I know Mom might catch us walking in the wrong direction? On the wrong road no less!?! My mom insisted on a junta with Missy’s mom, Mrs. Zarneck, who feigned her displeasure at our lying to appease my mom’s strict standards of child rearing. You see, Mrs. Zarneck secretly loved our creative outings in the city on school nights, I surmised. After all, she herself was once an up and coming off-Broadway star in Manhattan with a hit show before the babies started coming. Mrs. Z, as we affectionately called her, loved to “act” for her children when they were difficult. There was one monologue in particular which seemed to work from Juno & The Paycock, “was the pain I suffered, Johnny, bringin’ you into the world to carry you to your cradle, to the pains I’ll suffer carryin’ you out o’ the world to bring you to your grave!” That was always a hit with me! I would laugh out loud while Missy and her two fey brothers moaned and groaned in agony. Missy almost always gave in to her mother and no blood was shed. And here I am, a college sophomore studying acting and, now, fully out of the closet! Missy had gone off to school at Bard College, but, since it was spring break, Mrs. Z invited me over. After a chamomile tea and some shortbread cookies, Mrs. Z explained her dilemma. “I wonder if you might be able to help me out. You see I have these Greyhound bus tickets round trip from Mount Laurel to NYC and they have to be used in the next week. I thought that since you were on spring break, you might be able to head up to Manhattan for the day and look around? You know, see the sights. I can give them to you for $5. I just need to use them up. What do you say?” It was exactly those kinds of mellifluous verbal demonstrations that Mrs. Z would concoct that were instantly entertaining and so good for the soul. Of course, years later, I realized there were no expiring bus tickets and they certainly cost more than $5. It was just Mrs. Z’s way of giving this 19 year old gay man a chance to explore the world and see new sites-alone in Manhattan-talk about seeing the sites! Mrs. Z was a visionary.