It happened on a short subway ride from Lorimer Street to DeKalb Avenue in Brooklyn. Six stops. It was the end of January and I was wearing my green camouflage jacket and flannel red hunter's hat with the earflaps and fuzzy lining. While warm, I stuck out in comparison to the rest of the New Yorkers. They wore blacks, grays, and dark blues (maybe a little orange of they were a Met's fan, but that was the only exception.)
I stood and held onto a pole facing the sliding doors. Next to the door was a map that someone had covered over with a barrage of stickers. Each had a drawing of a naked woman or two in various states of seduction or foreplay. They each had an additional eye in a random body part like on a back or wrist looking straight out. There was a pigeon with a top hat and monocle and the line, "WE ARE WATCHING YOU."
I was so caught up in looking at these stickers that for the first couple of stops I didn't notice the young woman reading in the seat beneath the covered up map. She wore a thin black coat, black leggings, gray boots and a dark blue hat. She was pale with long black hair and dark eyes. Grand Street. Four more stops.
She had a book in her lap. I recognized the spherical Mayan calendar on one page. On another was a rectangular profile of Mayan figure. I asked her if that was she was reading the Puh Vol. She held up the cover and said it was the Popol Vuh. It was an ancient recording of Mayan belief. I swore at myself for the mistake. She asked if I had heard of it. I told her I had read it about five or six years ago for fun. I didn't tell her that the Popol Vuh was translated by a Dominican priest who inserted Christian imagery into the text. I should have told her to be weary of three headed snakes and anytime the number three appears. The subway train stopped again. Montrose Avenue. Three stops left.
I told her that I was more into Hindu mythology. I asked if she read the Bhagavad Gita. She said she hasn't but she had read the Mahabharata. I told her that was a very good book to read. I asked if she had read the Ramayana. She said she hadn't. I told it was a beautiful story.
Just then, a troupe of three Russian, or possibly Ukrainian, gypsies entered from the far end of the subway car. They were dressed in folk clothing; white shirts, brown leather straps with ornamental red and yellow flowers sewn into the fabric. The old man in front had an accordion. The woman in the middle plucked at a miniature balalaika, and the one in the back held a wicker basket of filled with roses.
I crouched down and strained to raise my voice over the sound of the gypsies and told her a brief version of the Ramayana, of how Krishna scorned the demon king's sister and his wife, Sita, was kidnapped as punishment and how Krishna saved her.
I was so caught up talking to her, another stop came and went and my stop arrived. I stood up and wished her happy readings and got off the train. Nothing magical happened beyond that, aside from the fact that I am trapped there with her, at least in memory.
And it would be easy to say that this woman was the Mayan goddess Ixtab, the goddess of ropes and snares, who has her noose tugging tightly around my ankles, but it is too simple. The truth is that the goddess, invisible in all her strength, was waiting for me at DeKalb and looped me off that train, up the stairs, through the turnstile, and threw me out on the street with my shoelaces untied.