Something I found in my notebook. June, 2009?
Yesterday at 5:30pm I was walking up a staircase to leave a subway station. This is New York's pedestrian version of rush hour. Instead of cars being bumper to bumper, it's bodies pressed again one another. Instead of cars stopping and going, it's people taking baby steps inch by inch to home.
So as I'm walking, as usual, I can feel the person behind me. Something's a bit off, however, because I feel their presence more than I'm used to. I feel their chest hitting my back. I feel their breath, hot, moist, and heavy, hitting my neck. But instead of turning around and telling the person to slow down, which I should have, I get sucked into the communal feeling of anxiety and impatience(which is what pedestrian rush hour is all about), and I start moving faster. And then it happens...The woman in front of me, elderly, I'd say around 75, accidentally hits her foot against my shin as she's climbing the stairs. I got too close; completely my fault (even in pedestrian rush hour there are collisions), and the old woman nearly falls. She leans to her side and grabs the railing, tilts her face up, winces her eyes, and clenches her teeth. It's awful. Really. So I stop walking, barricading the human traffic behind us.
"Hurry up!" a man says - the same man whose breath I felt. But I don't hurry up. I just turn around and stare at him, not saying anything with my voice, but with my eyes I say, "Relax, buddy, or I'll rip your esophagus out." And by his reaction, and the people's reaction behind him, it's obvious they received my silent message.
"Are you okay?" I say to the old woman. I slowly, lightly put my hand on her shoulder, and she flinches. Not because I surprised her, but because she's actually frightened I might hurt her. Again.
I quickly pull my hand back.
"I'm sorry," I say, and the old woman looks at me, at all the people waiting behind us, making impatient faces. All the dozens and dozens and dozens of people waiting to get home, to errands, to work, and to life. So she gives a defeated smile, swallows, and beings to slowly climb back up the stairs, limping.
When we get to the top, the old woman sits on a bench and I continue to hover around her, repeatedly asking if I can help or call someone. She just sits there. I want to make an excuse up of why I almost tripped her. I want to say the guy behind me made me go too fast. But that wasn't it. I was the reason she almost fell.
"It's okay, sweetie pie. Everyone's just in a rush," the old woman says with a smile.
My Nana calls me sweaty pie. If I ever saw a man push her down, I'd kill him. Really, I would.
Then the old woman tells me to go. I hesitate, but I finally leave, since I can tell she really wants me to. In fact, she's happy to see it. Can you blame her?
So now I'm gone, taking slow steps, inch by inch, even though there's no one left around me. And then I get to thinking...I love New York, but sometimes I wish I lived in a city - no, scratch that. Sometimes I wish I lived in a world where no one ever felt the need to rush.