MYRTLE AVENUE

To understand the average middle-aged American’s relationship with American history, we need to remember the Boomer’s brain learned its world view by osmosis watching Bugs Bunny, cowboys versus Indians, and astronauts in goldfish bowl helmets reflecting the Moon and the star-spangled banner.

To understand the average middle-aged Briton’s relationship with history, you need to realise the British Boomer was brought up learning about the world through the lens of books about kings and queens, great crumbling castles and the tall ships ruling the waves, smelling the beer and wooden pews of mock Tudor pubs.”

Deep within the New York MTA subway system, in among the labyrinth of tunnels, is an abandoned station. Disused since the 1950s, it was once the last stop between Brooklyn and the river tunnel into Manhattan. The station is called Myrtle Avenue.

It still exists, on the F-train line, though of course the train never stops there. It’s an anachronism, untouched, slowly decaying but still partly lit in the shifting gloom as a train passes through. It’s a strange region of space, beneath the hustle bustle energy of the city, incarcerated, frozen in time down to the faded advertisement billboards and the art deco font on its walls.

Most passengers never see Myrtle Avenue station, though commuters travel along its platforms twice a day, thanks to the subway car’s bright fluorescent glare making its windows on blackness reflect instead the interior of the carriage to its occupants.

Josh Wexler, ten years old and a keen subway connoisseur, always drags the family into the front subway car on their weekend transit between Midwood in Brooklyn and their relatives on the Upper West Side.

Josh would make spend the eighty-minute journey with his face pressed up against the scratched up, tagged up plexiglass of the front carriage’s door-to-nothing, next to the driver’s sealed cubicle, watching the train’s headlights peer along the tracks ahead. By contrast, the colors were vivid in the dark tunnels as signals and work-lamps punctuated the blackness.

Josh was fascinated by the subway and, truth be told, he had a reason; a secret he’d kept for many months. It centered on the displaced Myrtle Avenue station.

“Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final”
RAINER MARIE RILKE

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