It was a Saturday in June. I was headed to the office with a gigantic bag tucked under my arm. I plodded on the platform of the 68th Street 6 train, saying to myself, “why don’t I walk a little further, sometimes you just get on the right train.”
The irony: it was the best train in town.
I’ve listened to Philip Glass for as long as I’ve been listening to music. He fell out of my orbit in middle school when I started a Russian binge, and returned again when my hometown symphony brought in Timothy Fain for Glass’ violin concerto.
“Timothy has met Mr. Glass,” my hometown conductor said to the audience before the show. They all gasped in unison, a testament to how famous Philip Glass is.
When I moved to New York, I started a running joke among my friends that I had a crush on Philip Glass (the “joke” was that it was totally true, and people just liked laughing at me). It turned into the inside joke that lasted for years, even on my birthday people pranked that he was the guest of honor. It was absurd enough to be unbelievable. I Instagramed a photo of his Fader cover last year, I cried at “Satyagraha,” I paid a sidewalk musician to play some Philip Glass and he obliged.
I think it’s safe to say I’m a big fan.
That Saturday in the summer, I hopped on the 6 train and squished in the doorway. A woman and a man were having a conversation about a wedding, the man had such a soft, demure voice that I didn’t recognize at the time. When the train grew less crowded I moved to the middle of the car, turned and realized that Philip Glass himself was standing by the door. I almost fainted. My face grew hot. But I couldn’t let him leave without saying hello. I knew that opportunity would never come up again.
I moved closer to them, and smiled.
“I’m so sorry to bother you but, aren’t you Philip Glass?” I said. He could barely hear me, the train was jolting and making noise.
“Yes, I’m Philip,” he said casually.
“Oh my god, I knew it!” I said. “What are you doing on the train, I can’t believe you’re on the 6 train!”
“I always take the subway, anytime before 11 pm, then otherwise I drive. Well, sometimes on the weekends the trains can be quite different.”
“You’re still in New York often then,” I said.
“Always in New York,” he said, with a sense of pride I resonated with.
“I can’t believe this,” I said. “I’m such a huge fan. This has like, made my year.”
I was borderline babbling, and halfway due to shock. I asked for a photo, which his friend took. I apologized for bothering him, and realized suddenly the mistake in actually approaching him. I blushed and turned away from him. We rode the train in silence. Then further downtown, he and his kids hopped off the train and started running for the turn style, like it was a game.
I got off a Spring Street, several stops early just to tell everyone what had happened. For my good friend and cello player, Dave, I texted him the photo without a message.
“You have got to be kidding me,” he texted back. “I’m calling you.”
My phone continued to ring off the hook the entire day (friends who wanted more details than my excited Facebook post) and then I decided to walk to the Financial District from SoHo. I blasted “Glassworks”, the album I listened to the first time I flew to New York by myself for an interview at Vanity Fair. Back then "Floe" made me feel like I was growing and becoming something. This time, listening to it felt like I was on some other planet where big things were happening. New York is like that, most of the time.
Later that evening, when the story had been recounted enough, I was hit with a wave of regret. There were so many things I’d wanted to say, but instead they failed to cross my mind. I also felt a little bad for interrupting his day, for being “that girl” with the lack of self control. But then I think about what would have happened if I didn’t say a word at all, I would have wished I had. I don’t know which is better.