On the F Train, Heading Home

It’s been hot. So hot that you take three showers a day. So hot that you keep deodorant in your desk and reapply so as to spare your coworkers. Finally, this evening, it rained. I was walking back from the F train at the time, without an umbrella. It’s many blocks from the F to my house. Halfway home, I realized that the rain felt good, after being sticky and hot for so long, and I started to run. I ran five blocks in heels, the rain streaming off me, laughing while people stared. You could call it joy, and it wouldn’t be a stretch.

Anyway, when I got home, I found this piece, left over from a year and a half ago, when I first moved to New York:

The last time I saw Marie, she told me something that I’ve never forgotten. We were riding the F train from her apartment in Brooklyn into Manhattan for a day of shopping. We were taking, pretty much, the route that she took every day to get to her publishing job in Times Square.

“I hate this train,” she said. “Even on the weekends. It reminds me of going to work.”

It wasn’t her job that she hated so much, she explained. It was more like everything. And like all depressed people, she dreaded the routine parts of her day the most, the rituals that reminded her that she was still dragging around the earth in the same old way. At least once a week, she told me, she’d be riding the F train back home, and she’d just start sobbing. And the fact that no one looked at her or even seemed to notice that she was so sad filled her with loneliness and despair.

This was the second anecdote involving transportation I’d gathered from the weekend. The first had happened to me in person. As I exited the Port Authority, dragging a huge duffle bag and trying my best not to get separated from Marie in the boiling crowd, I’d collided with a homeless man who was standing in the middle of the doorway screaming, “Welcome to New York! Fuck you! Fuck you!” It’s pretty hard to carry a thirty pound duffle when you’re hysterical with laughter.

Marie and I lost touch eventually, as you do. Last I heard, she’d gotten engaged and moved to New Jersey with her fiance. I hope she’s happier on the PATH.

Today, I am on her old train, the F. This morning I went to Wall Street for the first time ever. I had an interview. If I get it, I’m moving. Just like that. New city, new job, new friends. I should be terrified, but instead I’m elated, energized. The subway smells like pee and I’m nearly happy about it. This subway smells like pee; it’s a real subway. This subway … has street cred.

After I interviewed, I went up to Chelsea to meet a friend for lunch. This involved digging out my little Not For Tourists guide to New York, and figuring out where the hell they’d stashed the ACE train, and then finding the restaurant.

This might not seem like a big deal to you, but I have no sense of direction at all. I’m the kind of person who can get lost driving from her apartment to a restaurant just down the street, without making any turns or even going around a rotary. But here, I found my way as if I’d laid out the city myself. I had a weird feeling, even without the map, that I already knew where I was going. This was the first time this had ever, ever happened to me. I experienced, for the first time, what it must be like to have a sense of direction. You lucky, lucky bastards, is all I can say, because it’s great. It’s like being competent, or something.

After lunch, on the F train, heading back home, I realize that I feel like I’m heading back home, and I start to cry. Not loudly. No big hiccuping sobs. Still, if you were looking right at me, you’d know I was crying. Fortunately, no one is looking at me at all.

I’m not crying because I’m sad. I’m crying because it’s the first time in a long time I’ve been happy about something that’s actually mine – not a guy or a stupid party or someone else’s good news. This hasn’t been given to me, even though I’m getting a lot of help from my friends, who are putting me up while I look for a job and an apartment, and from my family, who are donating time, money and patience to encouraging me to go. This is something that will be hard, and interesting, and entirely for me. I feel young and hopeful and very, very lucky. And when no one even blinks at me as I sniffle away, I don’t feel alone at all. I feel like myself.

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7 thoughts on “On the F Train, Heading Home

  1. Lately I have been re-reading, as you do, Mark Twain’s dispatches from his trip to Europe just after the War Between the States. For a Victorian-era reporter from the West, he surely does have a modern voice as he takes on his fellow American characters, primarily, in this case, because he is writing about people out of place. Somehow they are more defined, almost in relief to the contrasting background and strange (to them) environment. Funnier than Hell (which Twain says is certain to be a rollicking good time because anyone he’s ever met that was worth knowing, except his wife, is sure to be joining him there.)

    Anyway, Ms. Smash, this piece touched my heart the same way. I have no doubt that 150 years from now, people will be reading this piece, saying, “What an extraordinary little lady? Why don’t we have people like her writing today? How have we lost that ability to tale of the heart? Thank God “Sketches from NYC” has never gone out of print.”

  2. I, too, found this piece to be extraordinary. How proud you must be for capturing exactly how you felt at a certain moment in time. How much I envy you for documenting it then and sharing it now. I think what I liked best was the realization that the happiness was for you and you alone. Not having it be related to a guy or a party or anything else is something everyone needs– single or not. I think I can trace a lot of my independently happy moments to something like that. It’s like you spend all this time agonizing over things and in one clear, seemingly impulsive moment, it all makes sense.
    Bravo!
    And congrats on the move to Brooklyn and continuing to thrive in NY.

  3. That was truly beautiful. And I am always moved by your parents intense care for you and interest in your words. You are lucky and refreshing and a joy to read.

  4. while it might (at least, I imagine that it sometimes does) make you wince to put yourself “out there” like this, I’d like to put my two cents in as another reminder of how much your writing and your clever honesty effects other people. People you don’t even know are greatly effected by these thoughts of yours. And that is something both tremendous and tremendously inspirational.

    Got any more of these old snapshots kickin’ around?

  5. You guys are all very sweet. I generally don’t put much personal stuff up on the ol’ blog, because it does have a way of coming back to bite you in the ass, but since this one pretty much just makes me look a bit mooshy, I figured it was OK. 😀

  6. Introspective Jennie is always a good read.

    Good writing always makes the writer feel uncomfortable, vulnerable even, and yet invites the reader to share emotionally.

  7. Absolutely beautiful.

    I hope you will continue to write for as long as the spirit moves you.

    If you’d like to express yourself anonymously, you could start an “auxiliary blog.” With a little creativity, I’m sure you could find a way to provide Smash readers with the clues that would help us find it without giving away your identity.

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