It’s so easy to fall asleep on the subway. The calm rocking of the cars and the movement, you close your eyes and click, you’re asleep. Hands clutched tightly around your bag and phone, of course. I closed my eyes, knowing I still had a half hour ride on my hands. I was only closing my eyes for a moment. I hadn’t been having very peaceful sleeps since sharing a room with someone who snores. Snoring! Surely that’s something they should write when the book a room so the staff can plonk all the snorers together.
I just closed my eyes for a second.
I was gently shaken awake by an elderly woman, face a tad too close to mine, waking me up as if my life depended on it.
I renamed myself, because you kind of have to, don’t you? New life, new name. Anna. I liked the way it rolled off my tongue. I think I looked like an Anna. Blonde, tan. That’s a version of Anna I like. It still shocks me when I look in the mirror – the shockingly white blonde that stares back at me, in contrast with my dark brown eyes. It makes the yellow specks stand out. Like honey gold. Like a snake.
I like the way my tongue touches the roof of my mouth in the middle and I let out the breath at the end. For a seemingly simple name, there is a lot in it. An. Na.
It was hard to get used to at first, like when you use a different name at a coffee shop – you momentarily forget and stand there looking around for the imbecile whose name keeps getting called out by the increasingly agitated barista.
“Even when I hold you in my arms, I don’t feel like I have you,” he whispered into the nape of my neck.
I hesitated for a moment too long. His lashes gave me butterfly kisses that I felt from my soles right into my soul.
“I don’t know how to change that,” I breathed.
And in that single breath, I dropped another petal.
Forget me not, forget me.
I feel like travelling only intensifies the feeling of loneliness. You’re among all these people, these millions upon millions of people completely separate from your own world, people you will never know and never get the chance to know, who you will never share a laugh with. And you are so far away from the people you do share laughs with, and because of the time or the distance or something else entirely, you feel as if you can’t even tell them that your bones are aching so heavily that they are weighing you down to the ground, you are heaving sobs and you are so far apart from yourself but you don’t tell them because who really cares? What are they going to do to help you, especially when you are so far away? So you cry on a park bench and you pick yourself and keep walking, and you go into a cafe and sit by the window and stare. Stare at the millions upon millions of faces you’ve never seen and never will see again, you watch but you don’t see life passing you by. And your red rimmed eyes and your tired body are so devoid of energy that even the thought of crying is too far out of reach. So you sit and you watch but you don’t see anything because you want home but you don’t even know where home is anymore.
Hastily wiped tears glisten upon her cheeks as she thanks the barista for her coffee. He hesitates in asking if she is okay and she smiles her polite smile and ducks her head, avoiding more contact than is necessary. She walks briskly out of the cafe and into the humid heat, smacking her in the face, pulling on her sunglasses as she blends into the onrush of people. The tears come, heavy and fast, as she walks with such a burning intent and no destination.
I am moving so slow, taking time to let the fresh air wash over me and breathe in the clean air before the day takes over. Before the hundreds, thousands of feet walk the same path as the day before. I am moving so slow and everyone around me is bustling, fitting into the New Yorker stereotype — on to the next destination but never really stopping. The air is filled with the sounds of birds singing loud – their joyful cheers for life – interrupted by the sounds of the city just a footstep away. The rush of cars, sidestepping each other to get where they need to be as if it’s a race against time. The buzz of human technology, expanding on the city of dreams. Confining the dreams of thousands to blocks of grey – the small windows of the buildings – the small windows of hope, the potential hiding beneath the suit-clad robots. What do your days consist of? Do you find meaning between these logically built streets? Do you cry – do you feel – did this city steal – steal the hope you had to find whatever it was you came here for? I want to reach out to them and ask when the last time they slowed down was. When did you last watch the sunshine twinkle through the leaves? When did you stop and breathe and revel in the feeling of being alive?
7:16am looks so perfect and I understand. I finally understand the beauty of New York City.