Friday, March 16, 2007

Crying, sometimes over you, sometimes not.

As I was shoved up against a man's knees and breathing in a mixture of sweat and stale urine on the 1 train last week, I noticed something that should have been more unusual: the woman standing next to me was crying. Our eyes accidentally met in that awkward shared-commute kind of way, and I saw the tears streaming down her cheeks. The look on her face wasn't one of embarrassment, as you might think, but one of resignation. It was a look that said, "Yeah. I'm on a subway, it's rush hour, and I'm crying. What're you gonna do?" I liked that look because it was a look I understood.

For someone with a paralyzing fear of crying in public, I have shed more than my fair share of tears in this city. Bunny wrote about her experience with New York City crying awhile back--it isn't just me, people. The big apple is drowning in tears. I don't know how to explain this phenomenon, other than by attributing it to the sense of anonymity that goes along with living here. None of these people know you or give a shit about your problems. It's easy to convince yourself that you're invisible, and in many respects, it's true.

I have cried everywhere in this city. I've cried while walking down the street, listening to my Ipod. I've cried while waiting for the light to change. I've cried while hailing a cab and, like the woman next to me, I've cried on the subway. Oh, how I've cried on the subway.

I've cried on the 6 train platform in Soho as a relationship I thought had promise disintegrated. I've cried on the uptown 2 because everything seemed to be falling apart at the same time. I've cried on the downtown F, on the uptown A. I've even cried on New Jersey Transit.

I've stood at the waters edge, under the baking sun, as a boy broke my heart from hundreds of miles away, my tears mixing with my sweat. I've cried in the snow and had my snot freeze to my upper lip. I've cried in a Starbucks while sipping a hot chocolate, I've cried in an Au Bon Pain while eating soup. I've sat on a bench and texted while I cried, I've sprawled out on the grass and cried on the phone. I have cried in this city.

Out of all the times the tears fell in inappropriate and public places, there wasn't one person who ever did more than offer me a sideways glance. No concerned old ladies asked if I was okay, dear. No wrinkly men offered me a hankie. No creepy dudes on the corner told me I'd be a lot prettier if I smiled, girl. No mother, sitting on the train with her kids, offered me an encouraging smile. Thank Jesus.

When your life feels like it's so out of control that weeping on mass transit seems like reasonable and appropriate behavior, the last thing you need is a "you'll get through it" smile and head nod from a stranger. No, what you need is for the people to get their bags out of the freakin' doors so they can close and you can get home to your dog and your Tivo'd episodes of Law & Order.

As we passed by the Upper West Side, Columbia and Harlem, the woman standing next to me just stared out of the window and cried. As I stood there, our shoulders touching, her music leaking out of her ear buds, the only thing I could think was, "why? Why, why, why, oh why do you have to be standing in front of the only two empty seats in this entire car?"

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