Atlantic Ave Terminal, 3:30 PM on Saturday January 22

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By Jeremy B. White

The soaring stone bulk of One Hanson Place looms through the long slanting window panes, beneath which a set of winding stairs swoops down to the trains. It has been one of those deceptively bright winter days in which the light emits no heat, and now the wan late-afternoon glow falls in panels on the wall. The long rectangular windows on the ceiling are encrusted with thick layers of frost and snow. Several metallically shiny, brightly colored balloons are stuck up in the ceiling.

There is an uninterrupted flow up people up and down stairs. Some are hurrying in from the cold, some are heading downstairs to the trains and some are venturing into the beckoning Atlantic Terminal mall, but few of them acknowledge each other. An ambient hum of inaudible conversation reverberates off the walls.
“A lil’ old spice,” a man with a yellow hoodie and a leather jacket says into his cell phone, laughing at his own joke. Two women who could pass for sisters roll their baby strollers by, one clutching a white plastic Target bag and the other eating out of a small TCBY Treats bag.

A bearded man in a black-and-blue striped watch cap, tattered sneakers and wire frame glasses stands at the top of the stairs, snapping picture after picture of the light on the walls. In between photos he peers down at the camera’s viewfinder, his face contorted into a grimace-smile of concentration.
An old woman wearing a lopsided pillbox hat sits off to the side, in a little nook next to the door, eating beef and rice out of a stryofoam container and cackling loudly to herself every ten seconds or so. Traffic flows steadily by on Flatbush Avenue.

Downstairs, a girl places a small purple Victoria’s Secret bag on a flat part of the stone ledge that winds along the stairs, then removes a plush pink pig with dozens of phrases written all over it, including the words “call me” in thick black ink. She stands the pig up on the ledge, stares intently at it and glances around her. She gazes at the pig for a little while longer, then puts it back and trots briskly up the stairs. The cackling lady is gone and the girl slumps in her place.

The man with the camera has removed his hat and crossed the room to where the vantage point allows him to take photos of the opposite wall. He takes a few more and then, apparently satisfied, puts his hat back on and hurries into the terminal.

A sudden flood of people comes up the stairs. Two cops appear at the bottom of the stairs and are leaning against the wall, watching with blank expressions on their faces. A man in a blue down jacket stops and asks the cops something, gesturing as he talks. They point left, he points right. They point left. He points left, looks off to the right, and walks to the left.

The girl with the Victoria’s Secret bag is still seated in the nook near the door, where she alternates between checking her phone and glancing in her bag. People walk by, ignoring her, and disperse into the frigid dying day. After a moment, she gets up and the joins them.

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