Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Life at the speed of walking

I no longer needed a car once I moved to NY. Conveniently, my sister needed one at the exact same time. I sold it to her for $1.

I knew I would love not having to pay for gas and upkeep. What I hadn't considered was how much more I would love no longer living in a cocoon.

In my previous life, I drove from my apartment's garage to my workplace's garage and back again. An endless cycle, and an easy one, protecting me from the unknown and the potentially uncomfortable. I wore skirts and heels on the coldest days, knowing I never needed to step outside. I witnessed people's lives through my window shield.

In New York, humanity crowds in to my daily experience. Every day I encounter the outlines of people's stories, and I cannot speed away at 55mph.

I cannot look away from the determined elderly woman I pass most mornings, holding firmly to the railing on her stairs and transferring her weight to her walker. I never see her walking down the stair case, and am unsure how she does it, as she seems so frail. Always a serious look, concentrating on the task. Yesterday morning I witnessed her inching along on an icy patch near the intersection. She was across the street from me and going the opposite direction, and I almost doubled back to help her. I wish I had. I worry about her. Who is she? What is her life like? What is her story?

I pass a dry cleaner storefront. In the window, a young man, appearing to me to be Guatemalan, is pressing clothes. Absorbed in his thoughts and his work, he rarely looks up. What is his story?

The older man with hands jammed into the pockets of his coat, selling newspapers perched on milk crates. One day I saw him putting his hands up to the vent of the apartment building next to him. I want to buy him gloves. What is his story?

The men setting up their fruit and vegetable stand most days on a well-traveled corner. Their prices are low, their customers many. When I return home late in the evening, they are still there. Inventory is bare and prices are a steal. The pears may have been frozen all day, but I will try them as they are just 25 cents each now. What is their story?

I don't know and may never know the details of their lives, but their presence is slowly becoming part of mine. Perhaps, some day, I might become part of their stories as well, the woman who is not quite young and not quite old, who wears serious winter boots in a sea of sleek black fashionable ones. The woman who sees them, and is quick with a smile if they look back.


  1. A woman whose heart is the heart of a teenager, maybe, and whose soul is timeless. And, serious boots are the only way to go for really warm feet!

  2. Wow, it sounds like your heart touches the world.