I gasped audibly when I rushed out of the turnstiles at the 34th St. station – not because I was late to class and had just run up the stairs but because the long underground corridor connecting Herald Square and 7th Ave was lined with homeless people. I walk through this passage several mornings a week and have never seen so many, though as I think on it now, I realize that I have been seeing its residents, if you will, increase from one regular, an older white woman whom I often see sitting next to her shopping cart, overflowing with odds and ends, muttering to no one or pacing back and forth, laughing, joined by a middle-aged Asian man with long grey hair, who sits upon a neat stack of newspapers beneath a milk crate, and an older man playing guitar – though I’m not sure if he lives there or not.
Lives there. Can you imagine? “Where do you live?” “On a 6x3ft section of cold tile beneath Herald Square.”
Strangely, my first thought as I ran through the corridor was “tent village.” No one was in a tent. And, village? How stupidly quaint. As if the couple I saw was rising from from a cozy bed in a country room and not from a pad of flattened cardboard, stretching to greet the morning sun and not fluorescent lighting and grouchy commuters, yawning as if to take in fresh air and not the overpowering stench of stale urine. I wondered, with faint hope, if these villagers take care of each other…