The Last Train to Greenwich

Matthew Lederman

8/28/90

John Hegarty strolled down Lexington Avenue through the cold drizzle, chest puffed out, chin up in the air, looking down his short straight nose at the women huddled in the doorways, smiling graciously, patting his thigh with his briefcase at each step. He wore a white shirt and a dark- blue pin-striped suit set off with an almost gaudy red silk necktie. He strode into Grand Central Station, checked his gold Rolex, scanned the departure board and crossed the vast waiting room to the bar.

"Dewars and water, lemon twist," he commanded the bartender, hoisting himself up on a stool, heaving his belly onto the wooden rail.

Cathy White leaned over the bar and craned her neck to see Hegarty. She wore a short black skirt pulled midway up her thigh and a black shirt, unbuttoned just far enough to show a hint of white lace. Her skin was clear, but thick makeup covered the faint scars of adolescence. Her eyes were hard and her face was expressionless. The bartender brought over his drink. Hegarty dug into his trouser pocket and ostentatiously peeled off a hundred dollar bill. He tossed it casually on the bar, picked up the glass, took a large gulp and plunked the glass down on the paper coaster in front of him, making a dull, important-sounding thud. Cathy looked over. Hegarty turned his head in her direction. Their eyes met. They both looked away.

Cathy picked up her drink and walked over to Hegarty. He looked away studiously but the hairs on the back of his neck stiffened as she approached. He stared into the mirror behind the rows of bottles.

"Excuse me, excuse me," Cathy stammered shyly, "don't I know you?"

Hegarty, slightly flushed, swiveled his bulk around on the stool and frowned at her. "I don't know," he allowed. "Perhaps."

"I'm sure I know you," she insisted, "but I can't attach a name to your face."

"Well, I'm not sure I know you, but would you like to join me?"

She looked at the thick wedding ring around his fat finger. "Are you sure it's alright?"

Hegarty quickly glanced around the bar. "Of course it is," he scoffed. "I've got to make the nine oh eight. Where do you think you know me from?"

"Oh, I can't really place you.... Maybe a seminar?"

Hegarty laughed. "Not unless one of your parents brought you. I haven't been to a seminar in twenty years."

"Oh, you're not that old...."

"Yes, I am," he insisted. "How old do I look?"

Cathy looked at his face and then slowly looked down all the way to his shiny black wingtips, spotted from the rain. "Thirty eight? Thirty nine?"

Hegarty laughed again. "I'm fifty two. And I look it. Every day of it."

"No you don't."

"Yes. I do. And you're flattering me." Hegarty stuck out his lower lip. "You want something."

"No. I don't"

"I know something you want," Hegarty leered. Cathy looked up at him, unsmilimg. "Another drink," he pronounced.

Her face softened. Cathy giggled self-consciously. "That's not what I thought you were going to say."

Hegarty swelled up proudly. "I know," he laughed, signaling the bartender. "I know."

They sat at the bar and drank. He told her he worked for a brokerage. She told him she was a temp. He told her about the stock market. She told him about a theater group. He told her about his company pushing him to increase volume. She told him about a director trying to seduce her. He told her about his children. She told him about her cat. They drank some more.

"I've got to be on the ten twenty two," Hegarty slurred.

"To where?"

"To hell." Hegarty looked at his Rolex and grinned foolishly. "Oh, forget it. I'll get the next one. Bartender?"

"Are you sure that's not the last one?"

Hegarty put his drink down on the bar and looked at her. "There's no such thing."

"What?"

"There's no such thing as the last train," Hegarty said, shaking his head slowly. "Hell, there's no such thing as the last anything. As long as you're alive, there's the chance that one more will come. Maybe not soon. Maybe never. But there's always a chance." He picked up his drink and toasted her silently. "Besides, I know there's another at eleven thirty eight."

They had another drink. Cathy told him about her the guy she just broke up with, a tear welling up in her eye as she finished. Hegarty, transfixed, watching Cathy's tear crawl down to the middle of her cheek and hang there frozen, told her about the growing distance between he and his wife.

Cathy leaned close to Hegarty and lowered her eyes. "Do you want to come with me?" she asked.

Hegarty drew back. "Are you a pro?"

"No," she said softly. "Of course not."

Hegarty looked around the bar and dropped a few dollars beside their glasses. "Yes."

They crossed the waiting room and walked down the tunnel to Lexington Avenue, holding hands, not speaking. Hegarty held the door for her. They stepped out into the brisk night air. The rain had stopped. Puddles reflected the neon lights. "I live right up there," she pointed and guided him up the avenue.

They crossed the avenue and turned the next corner onto the side street. A man sprang out of a doorway and wrapped one arm tightly around Hegarty's throat. He clamped a hand over Hegarty's mouth. Another man ran up from behind, spun them both around and punched Hegarty in the stomach until he fell to his knees. They tore his wallet and the loose bills and change from his pockets. They yanked his watch off, snapping a bone in his wrist. Hegarty cried out. One of the men punched him three times in the face. Blood poured out of both nostrils and his mouth. They took his gold key ring, patted down his pockets and, satisfied, threw him face down on the pavement, shattering his nose and front teeth. Cathy stepped up, picked Hegarty's left hand up off the pavement and twisted off his wedding ring, then dropped the arm contemptuously and stepped back. One of the men kicked Hegarty in the side. The other man kicked him in the face, spraying his shattered teeth out onto the sidewalk. They turned and followed Cathy up the block.

John Hegarty lay bleeding on the sidewalk looking at the neon lights reflect off the tiny shards of enamel in a puddle. "I'm gonna miss the last train to Greenwich," he moaned.

Copyright 2005 Matthew Lederman. All rights reserved
Contact: matt@matthewlederman.com