It is early and you’re disoriented. Your boots clack as you make your way towards the end of the cement subway platform. There is a windy chill sneaking underground from a grate above you. As you take your place, coffee in hand, something catches your eye. A potato chip bag, a red UTZ bag to be specific, is moving in curious circles. It is most definitely not being propelled by the wind. Cautiously you step closer and realize the bag has a tail. You promptly back away, but you don’t back too far away, because you still need to be at the end of the platform, you still have to make it from Brooklyn to the Bronx to lead a workshop that starts promptly at 8am.
You can’t take your eyes off the bag. You watch it wiggle and sway, until out pops the culprit, a brown mid-sized rat. Not too large you note as far as New York City subway rats come, but not a small fellow either. Luckily, you’re not afraid of rats, you regard him as entertainment. You are drawn in by his shiny little eyes and swear you can almost make out a set of delicate eyelashes. He’s rather cute you think to yourself as he grips a potato chip in his front claws or paws or whatever rat hands are called. You can’t help but think that if you were the little fellows rat mother that you’d probably name him Thistle, or Sage, or Buckley, or, no-you decide, Thistle, definitely Thistle.
You smile at Thistle as the train roars into the station. Thistle does not smile back, he looks terrified. The noisy clamor startles Thistle and as the doors open, he leaps into the train car ahead of you. As you make your way towards your seat you look for Thistle. Others are looking too. Most people attempt composure, pretend they are too cool to be ruffled by a rat, while others scream and jump on their seats in panic as young Thistle, at least you think he’s young, scurries the length of the train car beneath the row of seats.
You smile. You root for your friend as a group of construction workers try to smash him.
Up and down the length of the car Thistle runs. Unaffected hipsters lift their boots to allow Thistle free rein. Men and women in suits hop from foot to leather clad foot as Thistle rushes past. A homeless man wrapped in a stained quilt tilts his furry head back and laughs a hearty toothless laugh.
“Yo, did you see that!” a group of teens bogged down by sagging backpacks runs to the opposite side of the car.
As the train screeches into Union Square, off Thistle bounds the moment the doors part, his wiry tail waving goodbye.
You grin as you sip your coffee and laugh with the strangers who share your morning commute. You could be anywhere this morning, but you’re in New York, arguably the worlds most unpredictable city and you just rode the train with an unpredictable rat named Thistle.
*This is a true story. Names have been changed to protect the innocent.