Thoughts in Transit is a weekly project where I will illustrate and share the stories and thoughts bouncing around in my head as I move through the city from point A to point B.
It’s obvious you’re aware of how handsome you are, leaning against that pole, reading your book. You’re just BEGGING for someone to take your picture and send it in to @hotdudesreading. Well, sir, I won’t fall for it. FIRST OF ALL, it’s very rude to lean against the pole on a crowded train. I don’t care HOW good you look (you look incredible) choosing vanity over empathy is NOT attractive. We’ll see how things work out for you when this train lurches to the right in a second, just before Canal st, and you go flying, (feel free to land in my lap). Now, about the book. I’m sorry, but I don’t believe you’re REALLY reading it. I think you’re just using it as a prop at which to direct your smolder, (I’m so jealous). I mean, Salinger? REALLY? You’re clearly trying to curate an image here, how ironic that it be so phony. (Salinger is my favorite, I’d love to talk about it with you some time). IN CONCLUSION, sir, I know said I wouldn’t fall for it, but you’re getting off at my stop, and that’s the first thing you’ve done right all night.
I love traveling alone. No one knows your story. They don’t know who you are, where you’re from, or where you’re going. You exist completely out of context. Your only “baggage” is rolling along behind you, and the only time that matters is your boarding time. I think traveling alone is the perfect opportunity to indulge in some guilt-free me-time, so let me tell you how it’s done... Wheel that suitcase over to the closest bar and belly up. Order WHATEVER you want because this is about indulgence. “But Nikki, It’s 10am, it’s too early for a gin and tonic.” I told you, time doesn’t matter here. Sip on your drink and notice the people around you. Everyone is in a state of transition. Write their stories. Get inspired. Get lost in reflection. Order another drink and realize that they’re probably doing the same thing. Right now, someone is writing YOUR story. They don’t know you’ve been wearing the same pair of socks for three days, or that you woke up so early that you forgot to brush your teeth. It’s ten in the morning, and you are the beautiful mysterious woman across the bar, indulging in guilt-free me-time. Wherever you’re headed, try to take some of that with you.
Once a month, I get my bloodwork done in the back of a toy store. Life-sized Batman and Harley Quinn greet me as I walk across Car-Carpet-City. I turn left at the caged menagerie of dressed-up monkeys. Both the steel cages and the animals inside are uncomfortably realistic. The entire hallway is wallpapered in a display of deflated mylar balloons. I scan for new inventory until I come across the bouquet of hobby horses that marks the entrance to the lab. Inside the lab, I sit and wait with the rest of the patients until my name is called. Everyone seems unphased by the fact that WE ARE GETTING LAB WORK DONE IN A TOY STORE. The juxtaposition is outrageous and inspiring. It’s comical, twisted, and kind of dark. It’s like Babes in Toyland meets the X-men. I watch the needle go into my arm and think about what must happen here after everyone leaves for the night. I don’t really know what to think, but I always smile politely at the toys on my way out, just in case.
Me (Also Me)
Wait, am I going the right way? Why are there so many people walking in the opposite direction? (You haven’t swiped your MetroCard yet, it’s not too late to turn around.) Why is there only one other person down here? There should be more people headed into the city on a Saturday night. Let me find the map. (This is yet another sign that you are GOING THE WRONG WAY. If you’re not going to turn around, at least get out your pepper spray, damn.) Fuuuck, I might be going in the wrong direction, but I think there’s still a chance it might be right. (WHY ARE YOU LIKE THIS?) New plan: I’ll just get on the next train and see if it’s going the right way (it won’t be), and if it isn’t, (it won’t be.) I’ll just get off at the next stop, cross to the other side, and I’m on my way! Okay, CONFIRMED I’m going the wrong way, and DAMN IT, I have to go up to the street to cross the platform. (This could have all been avoided if you would have LISTENED TO ME.) I am so over this. Like, when did it get dark, and WHERE IS THE OTHER TRAIN ENTRANCE? WHY AM I LIKE THIS? (I asked you first.) Calm down. Okay. New-New Plan: I will just pop into this bar, have a drink or two, regroup, and once it looks like I didn’t just come in here for directions, I can ask...Oh wait, scratch that, I FOUND THE ENTRANCE!!! (But wait, you can still get a drink first, just sayin’.) Here we go, back on track. THANK GOD there is alcohol waiting for me on the other side. (Your drunk ass is taking a cab home.)
There are some unspoken rules you learn when riding the subway: shut the hell up and avoid eye contact at all costs, ignore everyone and try to disappear. I find this behavior to be PARTICULARLY counterintuitive, but thanks to an obsession with podcasts (and my will to live), I’ve been able to adapt pretty well. That being said, I was pretty startled when I felt someone place something in my lap.
It was a card. One side of the card illustrated the American Manual Alphabet. The other side read, “Hello! I am a deaf person. I am selling these deaf education system cards to make a living and to support my family. Would you kindly buy one? Pay any price you want. Thank You!”
I snapped out of my self-constructed isolation and was forced to face the reality of my commute. For once I had cash, but I REALLY didn’t want to give it to him. (I NEVER have cash and I FULLY intended to spend it on a hot dog). I looked up. I wasn’t the only one struggling to make a decision. A few of us noticed each other, breaking our unspoken rules for this unspoken language. One of us would hesitate towards our wallet, and the rest would shift uneasily, preparing to do the same. When the man came back around to collect his cards, the first of us handed him a dollar bill. One by one we followed suit. It goes without saying the man could have been full of shit, (not struggling, and not deaf at all) but I think in the end, some things are just better left unsaid.
You try to get up at 7 to take a shower, but you’re having a hard time adjusting to your new schedule. You wash your hair while you listen to the news, relying on the hot water and outrage to wake you up. You try to pick out an outfit, but realize you forgot how to dress yourself if it’s not in athleisure. You wonder if 60 degrees is cold or warm. Your tired eyes and skin reject the makeup you try to apply and you vow to start going to bed earlier. You gather up the things you need for the day, and stow them away in your bag. Preparing for a day in New York is like packing for a hike, and you’ve always loved that. You should have left the house ten minutes ago, but you change your outfit one more time before walking out the door. You push forward as fast as your new heels and their matching blisters will let you go. You take the same route you always do, walking up the same set of stairs to the wrong side of the street, correcting your mistake using the same crosswalk. Logic tells you there is a more efficient way to do things, but the last time you tried to make adjustments, you ended up stuck at the metrocard machine while you scooped nine dollars worth of quarters into your bag. There’s a line to get on the escalator, so you decide to take the stairs. You wonder why you’re the only one skipping the line, but it makes more sense once you register the impossible flight of stairs in front of you. It’s too late to turn back, so you commit to the climb. You arrive at the top juuust before your legs give out from under you . Out of breath, you decide that 60 degrees is, in fact, very warm. You look down over the mountain of stairs you just climbed, and grab your water bottle from your backpack. You roll your eyes at your self fulfilling “hiking” bullshit, and push through the same doors you use every morning. You arrive at work, five minutes late.
The Man With One Shoe
I got onto the Q at 14th street and settled in. He squeezed his way through the closing doors. With one shoe on his left foot, and a striped purple sock on his right, he landed safely on the train and surveyed the open seats. He skipped the space next to me, and I was relieved. The next open seat was between two men who were hiding behind their chosen distractions. I watched both men pretending not to notice him as he dragged himself towards the end of the train. I watched the uneven, moist footprints left behind by his socked foot dry up in his wake. When he reached the back of the train, the man nestled in next to a woman who was already taking up more than her share of the two-person bench. The woman’s stench, her collection of bags, and her missing teeth painted a picture of the perfect New York bag lady. The man with one shoe melted into her into a drug induced bliss. She did not move and her expression did not change. A few stops later, the man jolted awake and asked her if this was 14th street, he needed to get off at 14th street. I could tell she was amused, but she just ignored him as he hurried off the train.
Every time I leave the house and it’s cold, I feel betrayed. I’m ready for spring. I have been ever since it got warm a few weeks ago, right before New York crushed our spirits with a three-inch-deep “blizzard.” I’m ready for park days. For a month now, all I've been able to think about is my picnic blanket, my basket full of carefully curated snacks, and my tiny cooler full of beer. I’ve spent hours daydreaming of weaving in and out of people to find the perfect spot: a patch of grass with access to sun AND shade, far away from small children. I think about the friendships I’ve grown there, and the clarity I’ve found from getting lost on the trails. Honestly, I’m starting to get desperate. I’ve found myself missing the smell of dog poop on fresh grass, the disgust I feel when sweat drips down from my bent knees, and the graceful way I can catch a frisbee with my face (especially if that frisbee is thrown by a cute stranger). To avoid any further damage to my spirits, I’ve been avoiding the park, but today I couldn’t resist taking a peek... I think it’s for real this time y'all, I think park days are finally here.
View from the Q
Are any of us looking out the window thinking the same thing? I watched a girl turn to look and when she turned back around her face was completely different. Sometimes I avoid looking. I think I’m too scared. Would I see a beginning or an end? I don’t think I want to know...either way it’s keeping something from me.