I get into a cab. I need to get to NYU in 20-minutes. I ordered an Uber cause the L train shut down, again.
The driver seems to be on a holiday. He’s driving in New York City like he’s a bloody tourist, peeking his head out, staring at things, giving way to an onslaught of traffic—behind him.
Is he high on something? Nope, he is new in New York.
We clearly don’t speak the same dialect of English either. Every time I try to explain I need to go faster, he gets distracted and takes a wrong turn.
You get angry, real angry, but you curb it. After all, you were new in New York, once upon a time. You lugged a massive suitcase and a backpack 20 blocks downtown cause you were too scared to figure out the workings of the city subway.
An army of New Yorkers marched alongside you that day. More like over you. You had a feeling you were slowing them down. So, you decided to walk as fast as they were, but couldn’t keep up.
Why did they walk so fast? What were they chasing after? How could women do what they were doing in heels?
Now you are part of the same crowd. Running after something, anything. Annoyed by tourists blocking your way, slowing you down, trying to take that quintessential selfie—lips pouting out, like a chimpanzee, kissing the air, they’ll need a redo, of course.
You make a detour, work your legs, checking the wristwatch time-to-time, like that character from Alice in Wonderland. What was his name? Was it her?
New Yorkers are like characters straight out of a book. That is what you think everyday when you sit across from them in the subway car, looking straight back at you—a direct gaze that sizes down anything that comes its way. Eyes that were intimidating when you met them first. Now you pretend to wear a similar look.
You are almost there now. You asked the taxi to drop you at Grand Central and took the subway instead. It’s just 3 blocks away—if you can get past a barrage of tired New Yorkers returning home from work: Spartans by morning, zombies by night.
You remind yourself, you’re only 5 minutes late. You can make it to class if you run. The MTA advises against it . You don’t want to become a statistic, it warns, everyday on your daily commute—right before you shut the city out with your headphones.
Pushing yourself is what you are good at. You do that at home. In the office. With your spouse. To your classmates, in that night class that you attend after downing cups of coffee—to become something, anything.
You zig zag through a crowd of people leaving the subway station. It’s like Tetris—squeezing in wherever there’s space.
There’s a big opening now. At the turnstile leading the way to the Fulton street. Like God is parting waters for you. If only you could jump over it. You had seen some kids do it. You are not them.
Just run—that works better for you. But, now you are stressed about what’s happening in class. If you missed something important. You should’ve left home early. You should’ve known about the L shutting down. How can you be so lackadaisical?
You run faster, panting. Almost there.
Someone cuts right in front of you. Godammit! You turn to your left. It’s like Tetris remember. Just fit in like a keg in giant wheel. You need to push the horizontal bar of the turnstile with your leg to exit the station, but you pull it right into your left thigh for some odd reason.
Arghhhh!!!—you squeal in plain. The crowd continues to march alongside. May be one dude raises an eyebrow. No one else turns to ask you if you are okay. You don’t really want them to. That would be a royal waste of time. You’ll deal with it later. Right now you need to make it to class.
New York is a metamorphosis of the self. It makes you aware of each passing minute. Teaches you to squeeze the most out of life. To live each day like its your last. It’s not desperation, it’s a perfection of human experience. A heightened sense of being. You see more, taste more, feel more.
The reason why you know suburbia with a picket fence and its trappings will be the death of life.
Will you ever do that to yourself?
No point thinking about it now. You need to get to class ASAP. Try hopping as fast as you can on your right leg.