Shane took it upon himself to familiarize me with two important aspects of the city—the first being the subway system.
“Don’t worry,” he said as I squinted at something on the wall of a subway car that appeared to be a Jackson Pollack painting superimposed over a map of Manhattan. “You’ll get it if you just take your time with it. Just take the trains you need, and you’ll learn the hubs and connections.” His finger traced a strip of blue and stopped at a dot that said 135 BC.
“A hundred and thirty-five years before the birth of Jesus?” I asked myself, but not aloud. As a resident for forty hours, I figured it was time to act like I knew what I was doing.
“That’s where my dealer is,” he explained.
I nodded like someone who actually understood. We exited the train and headed up the street. “He gets a little freaked out when he sees new people, so just wait by the entrance and look inconspicuous.”
Harlem, New York, hosted Louis Farrakhan’s One Million Youth civil rights march that afternoon. Shane, whose blond hair, blue eyes, and the complexion of someone who saw the sun rarely—which fed into the speculation that we were siblings—dove into the crowd and left me alone on the sidewalk, humming, sweating, and avoiding eye contact. He returned after what could have been hours and hustled me downstairs.