A Subway Sermon

The service started at 14th street and lasted all the way to Penn Station. A state of affairs eased only by the fact that I was on an express train. The train doors closed behind me and the lights almost seemed to dim. At first I thought I heard something but wasn’t sure. It was not the sound of an organ, but the sound of someone… yelling. I picked a comfortable spot in front of the subway doors to stand, and disregarding the warning, leaned back. Once it was established that this subway prophet was indeed holding Mass, I discreetly reached my hand in pocket and hit the pause button on the iPod. I didn’t care what he was saying as much as that he was saying it. And I had to get a listen.

The sermon was devoid of any detectable religion. Though judging by the fact that he referenced Abraham, there were most likely bits of Christianity sprinkled in there. He was a fairly well-dressed black man so I’m guessing not Jewish. But I am no scholar of such things. Leather jacket. Cool shades. A piece of luggage on wheels.

His flock was unresponsive. Most people in these situations stare at the ground. Only to sneak a glance at the prophet when his back is turned. Some carry a grin. Mostly the snotty white people. As I did.

This particular prophet was feisty. He would yell very loudly and appeared to make some people on the train uncomfortable. I didn’t quite understand the gibberish he was spewing. It was a bunch of unconnected phrases. Maybe I wasn’t really “listening”. What I did take away from his monologue was that I am “going to die.” “It is coming.” Everyone in that train car was going to die.

He walked back and forth the entire 4 minutes it took from station to station giving his speech. Not once asking for money. This man had something to say. He wanted to take us higher. The doors opened at Penn Station and I got out and he got out. For a hot minute I thought he was following me. I imagined he might put his hand on my shoulder and demand a confession.

Every time you ride the subway you risk becoming the unwitting participants in an odd and fantastical congregation. I love this town.

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