I opened my eyes and saw him looking at me, his arms wrapped around the pole in the subway car we occupied. I had dozed off momentarily, overcome by that sleepy sickness that infects most subway riders on their way to or from work. Little children tend to stare at me all the time, for some reason hypnotized by my silvery, white beard. The youngster was about five. He swung around the pole several times, stealing furtive glances at me in between swings. The adult woman (presumably his mother) standing beside him reigned him in with a stern look, bringing him to an immediate stop. He stared at me with that sort of shy, innocent look typical of little children. "Hi," I whispered (loud enough for him to hear). He stood about an arm's length and a half from where I sat. "I am Santa Claus. I am on vacation. That's why I am in civilian clothes and not in my uniform." He giggled, bit on the nail of the forefinger on his right hand, and nodded his head. Before I could ask him what he wanted for next Christmas, the train came to a stop at the West 4th Street station, and his mom, flashing me a smile on her way out, guided him out the door and unto the platform.