The sun sets over Manhattan. I am in the AirTrain, fresh off of the Howard Beach Station. No matter how many times I take that train to and from the city, my heart thuds loudly in my chest and my brain whirls with the “what ifs” of missing my stop, being on the wrong train, heading needlessly into New Jersey, etc. And despite checking the map above the head of some poor sod obsessively, my anxiety and directional self-doubt runs high. All in the name of saving fifty bucks, which I am sure will come out of my pocket eventually when I am inevitably prescribed Lorazepam for chronic neuroses.
But, of course, like all of the times before, I make it off of the train and onto the AirTrain. My anxiety abates for about a minute and then kicks in again when I wonder how long the security line will be or if I’m absolutely sure I am supposed to be flying today. This is what goes on in the head of a crazy person.
Sanity comes in waves, though, and the sun glares softly through smudged and dirty glass making my pulse slow slow slow until I am actually here on this plane of existence and existing peacefully. And here I watch.
An older mother of two braids one daughter’s hair while the other sits, already finished, playing with the turquoise bow in between her scalp and her pony tail. She has bangs and pig tails. Her skin is tanned. She is too old for this look, I think, and neither of these girls are terribly beautiful. Rough hewn, masculine, with ridiculous bows and an overattendant mother.
A man in the car ahead of me leans on a rail while talking to his friend, his mouth opening wide with laughter. His blue uniform draping around his shoulders and chest. I cannot hear what they are talking about but I imagine he is happy.
The air conditioner rings above me like a fire alarm….a mosquito in my ear…the after-a-loud-concert buzz of your ears dying a painful death. I block it out. The sun sits in my lap.
A pair of teenagers, nineteen at most, hold hands and kiss. The boy wears a black and white “Los Angeles” tee shirt and the girl has blonde hair. He is leaving. The train jerks and they stumble, knocking their mouths apart. They laugh. I feel intrusive and change my line of sight. Youth can be so quietly lovely.
Seagulls swoop in the blue sky marred with the occasional cloud. Manhattan sits on the horizon, departing from me at an agonizingly slow rate. Seeing it from this perspective makes me painful aware that I am not in it and I look away.