Imagine being lost in the New York City train station with people you don’t know. Imagine a four-year-old kid in the middle of the stairway, scared and confused. Imagine a crowd all around you, and there’s nowhere to go. Who was that four-year-old kid that got lost in the train station? I was that four-year-old, and I was alone and afraid.
I went to preschool in Chinatown. I always came home at around six o’clock, so my grandma would pick me up. “Let’s go and buy some fruits!” my grandma would say every time she picked me up early.
“Look, Grandma! Look at all the fruits we bought!” I said one day.
“Yes, we bought so many fruits! Now let’s get home and put them away,” my grandma said when we got to the train station.
Since there were so many bags of fruits, it was hard for my grandma to see if I was beside her or not. Ding-dong! The doors of the train started to close.
I looked up and I didn’t see my grandma. I looked from one side to another. Every way I turned were more people, but none of them were my grandma. People pushed and shoved me as they passed by I thought I would get bruises soon. I got real scared and slumped to the floor. My heart started pounding and my hands started shaking. I got up and started calling for my grandma.
“Grandma!! Where are you?” I yelled. I spoke in all three Chinese languages, but there was no sign of my grandma. I started to feel the urge to throw up, but I continued to call.
“Have you seen my grandma? Have you seen my grandma!?”
I asked many people, but all of them said, “No,” or shook their heads. I started to cry, and the noise filled up the station. I was hoping my grandma would show up, and I would be by her side again.
“What is that racket?” the train conductor said. “Huh . . . better open the doors.” As the doors opened, I turned around. I saw a familiar figure inside. She had loads of bags. I peered inside and the bags were full of fruits. I looked up at the person. That person was my grandma!
She looked at her side and saw no one beside her. She looked up again, shocked to see me outside in tears. I ran inside and held her tight. I started to wipe my tears from my eyes.
“Where were you?” my grandma asked.
“I was outside!” I answered.
“I thought you were beside me.”
As I held my grandma, I didn’t feel fear anymore. I stopped shaking and my heart stopped pounding. All I felt was relief, and I felt safe when my grandma held me. I was glad I got through that, and I was happy to be beside my grandma once again.
“See, Grandma, that was exactly what happened,” I said as I ended the story.
“That’s quite a story,” my grandma said, “but I don’t remember that happening when you were four. I think you were three, no four, no three. Hmm .”
“But that’s the way I remember it,” I said, while my grandma and I entered the subway to go to 34th Street.
“Well, I remember it differently. But it’s a little hard to remember. I mean, look at you now. You’re eleven years old now.” She looked at me and smiled.
I smiled back. “So what do you remember?” I asked.
“I remember you were very little, yes, we were coming home from school. There was a crowd in the elevator down on our apartment lobby. You went in and I didn’t. Suddenly, the doors closed and you went up,” my grandma answered.
“Oh I remember, I went up, you went down, up, down. Then we finally met,” I said and giggled. “But I remember that, and I remember getting lost in the subway too,” I said.
“Maybe you dreamt it,” my grandma answered.
“But I know it happened,” I replied.
“Maybe you remember it, but I don’t,” my grandma answered, and started to laugh.
“Maybe it was when I went to the laundromat and you were asleep at home. You woke up and couldn’t find me. Heh heh . . . you were so small and you opened the big door!” my grandma said.
“Really? I don’t remember that,” I said.
“Heh heh. You see, you don’t remember and I do. You were way too young anyway,” my grandma replied.
“I think it was 34th Street. I saw red poles, and Grand Avenue has blue poles. You know, when I got lost,” I said.
“Maybe,” my grandma said.
Ding-dong! The doors opened in front of 34th Street. My grandma and I stepped outside. I looked at the train before we got on the escalator. “Maybe it was a dream . . . but it felt so real,” I said to myself.
I got on the escalator and it started to go up. That day when I was four was the first time I got scared so badly I looked at my grandma, and felt safe. I looked back one last time, and smiled. Maybe it was a dream, but it sure gave me a story to tell.