032316 - Morning
Walking down the subway steps is when it really begins. Dodging puddles of drain water or urine, more likely. Picking up the pace to keep up, look alive, start the day. Swipe the card and a woman dodges past, rushing down the steps in double time, coffee in hand, leather tote on her shoulder filled with work, school, reasons to keep it moving.
The platform is sparsely populated. Many are faces that are there every morning. The blonde lady in her 40's with short cropped bangs always there waiting just a few minutes before me. She is more reliable than my alarm clock to avoid being late. I notice the mother with the curly hair and two daughters in tow, their high-pitched chatter echoing through the silent car, and I keep walking.
I go inside the 3rd last car. This one lines up exactly with the stairs when I get off to transfer once the train reaches Manhattan. I walk to the end, almost to the second last car, but not quite. Settling in I notice the blind man I see sometimes. He sits down and pulls his backpack up closer on his lap, his white cane tucked between his knees. I know he gets off only two stops later. I wonder where he goes and I wonder if he can feel my familiar presence even though we are complete strangers.
I take my phone out of my bag and put my earbuds in. Scrolling through my podcasts I realize I failed to download the new files. I switch to my music and see that my songs are unavailable. offline. Fucking iCloud. I fail as a savvy millennial. I keep my headphones in and close my eyes, wishing I did not take that melatonin pill at 12:00AM, still feeling groggy.
The familiar sound of my train starting up doesn't wake me from my half-sleep. I hear the same announcement I hear each day and feel every weird knot in my legs as I struggle to relax before my day ahead. I need to start wearing better shoes. And stretching. And working out more. Sitting all day is going to give me varicose veins.
The next stop is busy as usual and I crack open my eyes. School kids get on, a group of Muslim girls I see daily pile in, speaking loudly about important high school gossip. The gruff construction workers that come in from Staten Island sit down quietly next to that lady with the Gucci tote that always has flawlessly winged eyeliner.
At the next stop inevitably someone guides the blind man off the train. He doesn't seem that bothered but I'm sure his muscle memory is more finely tuned than any of us seeing people.
I close my eyes again and wonder what it must feel like to always be in the dark with random strangers putting their hands on your shoulders. Is it comforting to physically feel another human being reaching to help you? I feel tense even when another person's knee bumps into mine on a squished subway seat and will hold my legs uncomfortably just to avoid that contact. That's probably why my legs are sore, I think. At least I have a choice. Someone who can't see will need the help of strangers at some point. I'm not sure why I think I won't.
A couple stops later I get off to transfer. The commuting spirits are strong today and I am blessed with the luxury of stepping right onto my connecting train. It's not that crowded either. Another miracle. One more stop in Brooklyn then light pours into the train car. Phones pop out immediately and screens light up with text messages, emails, and news feeds. I realize I could download an episode of something in the time it takes to cross the bridge but I continue to keep my silent headphones in.
Out the window I can see runners below taking the path along the water. Traffic flows and I think about how much carbon monoxide the runners must be inhaling. The water appears almost orange under the morning sun and the waves take on a comforting gentle flow. I wonder what it would be like to slip beneath them and live surrounded by the light.