Commuting to the end of the year
Checking through my notes as we round the corner of another new year. Lots of thoughts while en route to work. Instead of transform these fragments into a complete thought, I’m submitting them as I found them. Found thoughts.
People have these heart wrenching stories and use them to beg on the train. It’s a weird thing but the more money I have the less I want to share, but when my bank account is running on fumes I’m more likely to give over whatever I’ve got.
A guy just got on the subway with an acoustic guitar and a backpack with black wings on his backpack. I instantly thought eek no, not this morning. But then he broke into an original rendition of No Woman No Cry, complete with some of his own, thoughtful lyrics. And was great. Thanks, guy, for brightening my morning, even though I didn’t have a dollar in my pocket.
Andres Cerrano photographs of homelessness in the train station tunnel at West 4th St. Hey Andres, what the fuck do you want me to do? These people are homeless, home less, I know this, you know this. Do we solve individual problems or do we solve them as a whole group? Do we solve it all at once or piece by piece? How? With photographs? Your photographs raise the awareness about homelessness, thereby perhaps giving you the impression that you are doing something. Are you doing something or are you photographing? Are those the same thing? If I write about homelessness, does that mean I’ve taken action or only stated a problem?
She with purple hair poking out from beneath snow cap, dirty white and black check leggings, showing signs of wear around the knees and ass. A ring stabbed through her lip. He with tattooed hands and half closed eyes. Pretending to be straight. Pretending there was no difference between them and everyone else who were successfully passing as straight. So high I felt their highness, so high I felt their oblivion, so high I knew how hard they were trying to not seem high. Thoughts rolling. “I’m just a normal guy who likes to lick Nutella off a slender cookie, then dip it again into the jar, lick it, savor it. Can’t a guy just enjoy a jar of Nutella on the R train without these baseless accusations? Shit.”
And she the girlfriend of the stoned guy. Knowing everyone knows he’s stoned, trying to play like she’s not, afterall, she’s not licking Nutella off a slender cookie. “It’s just my boyfriend,” her eyes press into the commuters, “he’s really stoned but I’m straight, I’ve got it under control, I still know how to commune with my fellow man.” She pulls out a cupcake in a plastic dish and painstakingly removes each and every rainbow sprinkle for individual consumption before taking a bite of the cake itself.
Things you never want to see on the mta:
1) A fuck load of campers.
2) A pregnant homeless woman.
3) A guy with his legs spread all the way out.
4) A woman sitting in the middle of a three seat with her shopping bags spread on the seats.
5) Anyone in a clown suit. Especially not at 2 am.
6) A bunch of commuters fleeing a train car at a station stop and rushing real fast to get on the neighboring car. This can only mean that there’s a human who smells way too human for commuter comfort.
Dear woman begging with her toddler in the subway station,
Yes, I gave you all the cash I had on me. I’m sure you know exactly the affect that you and your beautiful little child have on passers by, on women especially, on mother extra specially. I’m sure it’s tough to afford child care on beggars wages, so I don’t particularly think less of you for having her with you, for employing her sweetness to elicit donations. There’s no ‘but,’ there’s no judgement.
On my way out of work this evening I saw a woman taking five or six beautiful young kids in public school uniforms up to social services. They were beautiful as they laughed and smiled, scrambling for the elevator. I don’t know why they were going there; I have a fear that the children who are brought to the third floor are being given back. I have no reason to believe that’s what was happening except that I always, always think the worst possible thing. I mean every time.
I worry that your little girl is playing too close to the escalator while you hold up your cardboard sign and look off down the subway hallway for new comers reaching into their wallets and pockets. None of us even glance at your sign. We all look right past it, to the ribbons in her hair, her proximity to the stairs, mentally calculating what’s in our pockets, what we can give. Hoping to alleviate the desperation and sadness we feel for you with a little bit of cash. I don’t know what I gave you, bills folded, but I know it’s not enough for a sitter, for an apartment, for a car to drive your daughter and yourself out of this wretched city that demands so much and gives back so little.
There’s stuff, there’s programs, school lunches, library programs, free pre-k, free health care, wic, ebt, heat aid, you might even know about these things. There is your daughter who is watching this, watching these looks of pity and fear pass by, accompanied by dollar bills. Is she learning she is a girl to be pitied? Is she learning to rely on strangers? To smile bigger when a sympathetic mom approaches? Is she learning her worth down there in the subway station? Is she learning yours?
If we are each other’s responsibility then why is it so crazy that I want to ask you to come home and move in with me? Why isn’t that a thing that people do?