It’s Wednesday morning.
Donald Trump is President.
I move with ease through the open doors of an eerily on time G train. There’s no need to dash for a seat. The Indian girl that competes with me for the corner spot each morning isn’t there. She must have stayed home.
I wonder, how many sick and personal days came off the books today?
I choose a seat in between a stocky white guy with glasses who I imagine works in IT, and an Asian woman who looks to be on her way to a yoga class. There are other seats open, but I know I want to sit there.
Sometimes you’ll see a long stretch of subway seats open around two strangers smashed up closely against each other. They started out that way because the train was full at the beginning of their journey. As the train emptied and the opportunity came for them to create their own personal space, something kept them from moving. I think most people tell themselves that they don’t move cause they found a comfortable nook and just want to stay in it. Less of us recognize that part of that comfort is coming from human connection. We are riding home after a long day at work. We are both tired. We lean on each other for fifteen minutes. City living.
I’m not sure I’ve ever been on such a quiet train. Normally there’s a gentle hum to my morning commute-a nap inducing mixture of soft conversations, pages turning, mellow tunes seeping out of headphones, and the stops and starts of the train.
Is this train a Prius? I can’t hear anything.
I am not listening to my usual sports podcast. I can’t. I try to put music on my headphones. That lasts for exactly seven seconds. So far, I am holding it together — music is not going to help my cause. So I just sit with the quiet. I start to look around the train. My fellow New Yorkers. I’ve always been a bit of a starer. I live to observe. This morning my eyes know no bounds. And neither do anyone else’s. I take turns locking eyes with four or five different people.
My fellow New Yorkers. There’s an African guy standing against the pole in front of me. The woman opposite me to my right has an olive skin tone, Greek probably. My eyes shift to a Polish guy and Puerto Rican school kids and an Italian grandpa, and a thirty-something Korean woman. I fucking love my city.
I can feel that I am not the only one barely holding it together. There’s an older Jewish woman sitting in the seats I hate — the ones that have you sitting the opposite direction that the train is moving. I can’t tell if she has just finished crying or is about to start. I guess both. But she doesn’t want me to know. She takes a giant pair of Chanel sunglasses out of her purse and places them over her eyes.
This day feels impossible. I daydream about time-travel. Set the machine: November 2020.
Suddenly. Noise. A baby starts to cry. I look to my left towards the wailing and I see a small Latino woman rocking her baby, trying to comfort and shush her.
Oh my God. Seriously? The only noise on this train is a little Latino baby crying? No matter how gently her mom rocks her and tells her everything is going to be ok — on this day, she doesn’t believe it.
I look around again, curious if anyone else is having the same experience I am. Are they thinking what I am thinking?
They are. They all are.
Then the doors open. I look outside the windows of the train for the first time in what seems like forever. We are at Flushing Ave. The doors close. I start to see a figure who entered at the end of the train move towards the middle, close to where I am sitting. It is a Mexican man with a guitar.
Come on — not right now. Now is not the time. We just need quiet. Don’t you hear the baby crying? Now is not the time.
I knew he could hear my thoughts through my glare. But he knows better than to listen to me. He starts playing his guitar. He sings the softest, most beautiful song in Spanish. Without knowing the words, we were all able to recognize melancholy — with a bit of hope. The baby stops crying. Tears start to fall from every other corner of the train. Chanel finally loses it — I look past her to pretend not to notice her wiping her cheek. I sit there in the most exquisite discomfort — I don’t want to leave it. I don’t want IT guy’s stop to come. I don’t feel like I can live without Asian woman’s yoga mat crushed against my side. I never want Mexican man to stop singing.
I think this is grieving. Pain I am letting myself feel.