Heard on the Train

A true story, or as true as they get on the NYC subway. Illustrations by the ever talented man with great hair, Greg Bemis.


Those buildings along Fulton used to all be abandoned. It used to be this long block of abandoned buildings. One time they found my friends head in a toilet up in there, and people just knew.

Friend interrupts, “Just the head?”

Yeah, just the head. They knew, because that’s how they used to do it. They’d just chop your body up and leave you in one of the abandoned buildings.

So I’m in the park with my brother one night and we see these dudes walkin’ up. We’re on a bench, and there were like – (Counts in his head) – eight of ‘em. My brother is two years older than me so he was like, ten and I’m eight. These dudes are like twenty-eight, thirty, thirty-two and they come up and grab us.

Now they don’t have guns, they got knives and shit. That got these like, long skinny knifes like, mini-machetes. One of them is like, “Yo, lets not do it here.”

I’m, like thinkin, “Do what?!”


So another one of them said, let’s take em to the abandoned building across Fulton. So my brother, I don’t really know how he does it but he does this spin kick move or something, (half acts it out, rotating to his left and kicking his right leg out a bit) and he starts running. One of them had a stick and hits him, but he keeps running, limping a bit but running


Friend says, “But they still got you right?”

Yeah, but I’m not thinkin about me cause I’m still thinkin about my brother! I’m like, “Run David! Yeah! Run!


They still have me though, but it’s not that late, it’s like maybe… 8:30, but we’re the only ones in the park. One of them says, let’s do this still, and they start takin me over to the buildings .They were carrying me down the street and there is a line of cars I’m grabbing to like every car screaming.


The Friend asked, “How old were you again?”

Eight. So then, I don’t know how he did it, but my brother comes back with a whole baseball team. I don’t know what he said, but there he is with the whole baseball team.

And the way it was, there was a fence along the street and then hill in the park so it sloped down to the street. So there we are at the bottom and at the top of the hill there are 20 dudes and my brother scream, “Hey! Let ‘em go!”

And the dudes see ‘em up on the hill and just book!

(Laughs as the train starts pulling into 125th street station)

That’s the day man, that’s the day I knew there was a god. How does something like that happen if there is no God?



Blood is always redder than you think. It has the deepness of the dark side of a cherry and the velocity of a mid-season cherry tomato.

Usually when I see blood it is on the tip of a finger, the depth defined by the droplet. Sometimes it is a cut from a kitchen knife and it drips or even pours. These are dollhouse examples, scaled down into playthings.

I have never experienced war, and I hope I never have to. War in the streets where I live or war abroad. I daydream about it sometimes, where I am a unsung hero. I get to die and come back and replay it so that I am remembered with even more unwritten courage.

The stream of blood I saw on the sidewalk of 125th Street was not anyones daydream. I’ve only seen that amount of blood once before and I will not recite that incident here, but in both cases asphalt and concrete were the canvases.

The Harlem blood, like the miniaturized river of tabletop topography, was roped off. The people standing near the blood were not the former owners of it. He or she was somewhere else, alive and recovering I prayed. There was a second puddle a few feet from the main body of blood, perhaps it was the first to fall, or the last. Maybe it came from a different home.

We, the people, residents and commuters, had to walk around the scene of the incident. I wanted to know what happened. I wanted to know why and if they were ok. I wanted to keep going and get home because I was tired.

The next morning the tape was gone, and that deep, sharp red liquid was washed away. The protein stained the ground. It was dark and scrubbed, but not washed out well. Some sort of cleaner was put on top of both the river and the puddle. It didn’t matter if we washes it washed it all away, it doesn’t matter if we know it is there.

We, the people, walked over it because we had places to be or we didn’t care or we didn’t know what it was or we did know what it was and we cared. Today we step over the violence. We walk around it. We don’t even bother washing it out because we know it’s a part of us. We are a bloody people.