Lately I feel there’s a lot of noise out there. I’m browsing through my twitter feed and it seems that everyone is up in arms about, well, everything. I don’t want to perpetuate the ugly sound by lamenting my frustration here but I just wondered…do you hear it too?
I’m trying to maintain an almost meditative focus these days — on the words I’m writing and the words I’m reading. I’m reimagining my days.
On Sunday night, I sat on the subway. Having already finished a book, I was involved in a children’s math game on my phone
(I was multiplying. For real.) A young man stepped on the train to ask for money and food for his daughters, his grandmother, himself. Unlike the many panhandlers I see and hear each day, he was well-spoken and well-dressed, his speech rehearsed but sincere. A middle-aged woman, who sat across from me, said to him, When you’re finished collecting money, come speak to me.
I’ll admit. I was curious. I strained to listen while I multiplied but their conversation was intimate, thoughtful, the depth and concentration of it, almost mystical. When I got off, they got off, and as I waited to transfer to my next train, they stood beneath the stairs in the heat of this conversation.
I wasn’t meant to hear their words but I overheard snippets, the work of her rehabilitation, the daughters he loved, an education somehow lost and then found, for both of them. And in the end, an exchange of information between them.
In all of my years living in New York, of the thousands of people (it has to be thousands, after all these years) I see begging on the train and in the streets, I have never in my life witnessed anyone reach out in this way. To tell a story. To listen to one. I see something in you,
I heard her say.
I wondered what the gift of this moment could mean. For both of them. For me.