When I moved to New York City last July, I had my misgivings. The city smells like hot garbage in the summer. The sun sets at 3:45pm in the winter. The subway is stifling year round and you never have any space to yourself, ever. 16 months later, I still feel all of those things. NYC is overpopulated and over stimulating and I do not feel at home here. But it is my home, for now, and sometimes it isn't all bad.
This is not a blog post about growing to love New York City. This is a blog post about growing to tolerate the subway. This is a list of little moments that made me forget, for a minute, that I was in a metal fart can crawling beneath the city at 30mph.
1. Once, I sneezed really really hard and this woman shouted "bless you" at me from the other side of the car. I nodded at her to say "thank you." She shouted back "if you win the lottery today, remember who blessed you." She was wearing a pink fleece and had on a huge striped scarf and she looked like a character in a children's book. I didn't win the lottery but I will NEVER forget who blessed me.
2. There's this radiolab episode about a man's dead parents that he thinks are haunting his house and I was tearing up because it made me so sad. I'm not a subtle crier. No one batted an eye, except for one kid that stared right at me. He made sure I knew that he knew that I was ugly crying. I respected that.
3. I fell asleep after the company halloween party because I let my friend Kelsey talk me into taking one single tequila shot. I knew better than that, but I took the tequila shot anyway, and so I fell asleep on the train at 9pm. It was not the first nor was it the last time I would fall asleep on the train. But this time, a man gently poked me to tell me we had to switch trains, and then stood next to me to make sure I didn't fall asleep again waiting for the next train. I didn't fall asleep again (that time) but I appreciated his help anyway.
4. The day after the election, the trains were completely silent. That never happens. It was eery. But I made eye contact with every single woman, and no one smiled, but we were together and we were okay.
5. I was sitting across from this adorable little boy. He kept making faces at his mom, but she was looking at her phone. So he glanced over at me, and I stuck my tongue out. Then he stuck his tongue out. Then, for the next 25 minutes, we made weird faces at each other. Everyone around us was loving it. When the man next to me tried to get in on the contest, the kid looked at me like "get a load of this dude! this is our thing!" and I looked at the kid like "strong agree!" and we both ignored that man and kept making faces at each other until it was time for me to get off the train. I miss that kid every day.
6. There was a woman crying very subtly, masterfully really, on my morning commute. I barely even noticed except suddenly, a literal angel crossed the train and handed her 3 tissues and a makeup remover wipe. The crying woman accepted these gifts and blew her nose. The angel said "girl, I'm sorry. But whatever happened, it will pass. I promise." And the crying woman nodded, thankful, and promptly wiped off all of her mascara. It was a really high quality makeup remover wipe. The makeup came off so easily!
7. This morning, I saw the most babushka looking babushka I've ever seen. She had a cane. She had a million knits on and a shawl over her head and she was a little hunched over and she could have been a hundred years old. I gave her my seat and she patted my head and I immediately googled "does a head pat count as legal adoption" because I really hoped it did.
I might never feel at home here. But I'm working on it. And these moments on the train, even though they're far outnumbered by bad smells and bad train traffic ahead of us, help.