I learned something about myself yesterday. It took all day (or ten years, depending on how you figure) to learn it, but I think. I. finally. did.
My sister and I took Katie sight-seeing in the city. The Hudson Line took us down (courting the river for miles and miles giving us beautiful scenic views). Grand Central. I love the great expanse of the Main Concourse. I love the sea of people in black coats which swarm across its floor. We grabbed bagels at our favorite bagel place. The ladies working behind the counter barked at the mob before them, "Who's next! Who's next! Who's next!"
Weaving our way down to the subway (keeping an anxious eye on gawking Katie), we figured out which line we needed to get on and went through the turnstiles. The crowd pushed closer, "Maybe we should do more hand-holding," I joked anxiously. But then there was our awaiting subway. "Let's get in that one" said Sarah, indicating the car in front of us.
It should have been in a movie. Separated by glass. Train taking me away. The roar of the engines. The frantic gestures, "Wait for me!" The look of shock, the pounding heart, then the stunned silence.
Eventually I looked around, a young woman caught my eye. "Don't worry, it happens all the time." I exchanged pleasantries, but silence brought thoughts pounding into my head. Another woman spoke to me, her Indian accent thick, "How will you meet up with your friends?" I told her I would wait at the next stop. She seemed to approve.
I got off. The platform grew quiet. Union Square. I suddenly had a panicy thought. I had our shared metro card, what if they couldn't ride the train? No, it wasn't a train, it was a subway- we'd already paid.... but what if they got an Express line and they didn't stop at my stop? I would check the next train's cars very carefully.
It was a good thing I did- because Sarah and Katie had had no intention of getting off at my station- they were going to wait at our destination, the Bowling Green. But we saw each other and reunited. Laughing. Amused. Relieved. My stomach a little shaken.
We walked through the World Financial Center- with its marbled floors and countless young men in ties and suits (chatting, presumably, about desperately important things like interests and loans and the stock market).
While we were riding the subway up to 86th street two men boarded with drums. They greeted all of the New Yorkers with their blank faces and ear-buds in. "HI!!!" I replied. They were struck. The man addressed the car: "That's what we LIKE! Hey, ya'know if more people show respect like THAT then the world be a better place, ya'know?!" They played, their inner beat flowing to their mouth and the palms of their hands. Just before they left one turned to me, "Where you from?" he demands. "New York." "Are you sure?!" and he's gone. "California" probably would have satisfied him more.
We had a splendid time in Tiffany's ring department comparing cuts and styles and marveling at the fiery brilliance of the sedentary gems. The salespersons were surprisingly accommodating. We were, after all, three young women. For all they knew we had some of the before-mentioned snazzy-looking business men interested in us. (We laughed because all three of us girls couldn't imagine anyone spending so much on a ring when an equally pretty one could be found that wouldn't burn your fiance's pockets and leave you with guilty feelings for the rest of your life.)
By this time we were exhausted, so Katie texted her fiance and he gave us directions to the nearest Starbucks where we got hot drinks, put up our feet, and delighted in girl-talk for an hour or two. Rejuvenated, it was off to Time Square (where we bugged a policemen about directions to a movie theater and took lots of pictures) and then we wrapped up with pizza, gyros, and Indian food at Grand Central.
We were on the train. We were done visiting. We were going home. Rivers. Trees. Quiet. You know I've always liked the city. I really do. How can you not love history and beauty and people? But I've always known I could never live there. And that night as we journeyed home I realized something more. Maybe it was being in the city twice in five days. Maybe it was our conversations about work and life and how hideous certain dresses, offensive certain adds, expensive certain baby-clothes, and extravagant certain rings were. Maybe it has been being at my college and getting closer to drugs and alcohol and the image-consciousness of our culture, but I think my materialistic streak (which I spoke of in my first New York post) has been somehow severely subdued.
I have learned, or discovered, or maybe just decided: I am a country mouse.