I’m almost through grad school residency here in Vermont, but it feels like I’ve been here for a month… and I can feel the details of my handful of days in Brooklyn slipping through my fingers as my brain spins and spins. so here are a few moments from my time there to look back on.
trains are odd things. I decide I like train travel – I’ve never been on one before. they sound just like they do in the movies, whistle and all, and the car rocks slightly back and forth, especially when leaving the station. it’s a miracle I made it on the train at all – I remembered the wrong time on my ticket, and when I came back the second time around, I found that my ticket was for the wrong station. I was meant to be across town. thankfully, the teller changed my location so I didn’t have to go back into the cold dawn morning.
it turns out I think I was meant to be in that particular train station after all. I’m sitting with my book, waiting for the train to arrive in a room full of other passengers, and I’m feeling kind of sad. I always feel more intensely sad and lonely when I’m about to travel – it just heightens the everyday sadness and loneliness I feel, I think because I’m launching off into the unknown all by myself. it makes what I feel real, even though I’m glad I’m off to see people and do new things. but I’m sitting there, feeling like the only sad person in the world, even though I know intellectually that can’t be true.
but then I notice the woman sitting on the bench behind me is on the phone, crying. I mean, really crying. the type of crying where you don’t care if the whole room hears you, because you feel so sad, it really doesn’t matter. I’ve been there. I’ve been at the point where you don’t care what anyone thinks of you, because your world has gone to pieces and there’s nothing you can do to put it back together again. I get the feeling I should go over and talk to her, and ask to pray with her. yes, that sounds mildly terrifying. yes, this is something I feel God wants me to do. I figure I don’t have anything to lose. I go and sit next to her. she’s wearing a pretty scarf wrapped around her head, green and blue patterns on black. I ask if she’s okay. she says she’s not okay. I appreciate the honesty in that – so many times I wished I had the courage to say I wasn’t okay instead of just saying what would make someone not worry about me, leave me alone. she says her name is Toni. we pray together. we let our hands reach out to each other, resting on legs and knees. perfect strangers yet not. and as we do, I can tell that this was the right decision. she needed it. I needed it. we both needed it. and God is there, like he says he would be. after we pray, she says her daughter died giving birth. I walk back to my seat, on the verge of losing it myself. I am very very glad I was there at that very specific time. glad our lives got to intersect at that moment. painful and beautiful. less alone. Toni leaves on her train. I later board mine.
I think a lot, on the train. I seem to do the same thing on planes, and buses. it’s something about travelling. something about crossing great distances by myself. I think about the moment in the bus station. I think about how so much of Passion was about purpose. about how even when I sometimes don’t feel like I have a purpose, or a point, I do. my purpose is to be who God created me to be. to be a light pointing people to him. to be an arrow in his bow to light the world on fire for him. I think about how many times this past year I have felt completely empty. completely blank. completely nothing. completely pointless. and that is perhaps the scariest feeling of all, feeling like your life has no damn point. Passion reminded me that even when life feels empty, and I can’t see happiness on the horizon, I do have a point. and I can be that purpose knowing that one day, everything inside me will be made whole, even if I never get that feeling here on earth. but that moment in the train station – I didn’t feel like anything incredible, because I’m not, but I did feel special in the sense that I got to be something for someone who needed God that day. I felt far from pointless. I felt that maybe God can use me after all. that maybe even when I’m not happy, I have worth. I have a point. and that is a feeling I want to somehow hold on to.
white-blue ice. frozen lakes. snow. snow. more snow. dark trees flashing past, forests of tall, dark trees. rivers. bridges. I read an entire book on the train. I begin another. I write. I watch. I listen to music. the trees roll past. I feel quiet and aching and small. the trees roll past. the world is beautiful out there. I can see that. I am glad for it.
I emerge from the train to the subway station, a riot of people and noise and just too much of everything. I’m lugging a guitar and my pack and a school backpack and it’s all too heavy… and guitars don’t like to go through subway turnstiles. I’ve never been on the subway before. I make it to the actual platform and get so many different directions until I’m confused and worried about going the wrong way. people busking in the hallways echo too loudly. there’s a tired man with his full shopping cart sitting against the tile wall, out of place. I leave the subway – tall, bright lights pounce on me, letters, a bright green band of fluorescent. I feel lost here. it’s night. everyone’s rushing around and I’m just me. by myself. tired and fed up, I call a cab, which charges me way too much, but I’m don’t care. it’s warm. the driver has an accent and a turban – we don’t talk as he cuts through traffic, a bit recklessly. we pass over a bridge. I can see the white lights strung on the Brooklyn Bridge running parallel to us across the water. the skyscrapers are alight, upended rectangles reaching into the sky, a jagged horizon, up, down, up, down, up.
I end up sitting at a sandwich shop with a burger. I feel weird with my hiking pack and guitar propped up against the wall. I sit for a couple hours. B. is still on shift at the hospital and has to bike over after. his roommate feels weird about leaving keys for people. unfortunately for me, shifts at the ER can be long and unpredictable. I wait. and wait. and wait. and watch the kind of scary world of Brooklyn spin around outside the window. people come and go from the shop – the owner speaks some language from the Middle East, perhaps Arabic, and there’s obviously a close community around this street. people come and go, names exclaimed as they walk through the door, hugs and bright hellos in welcome, pleasantly rhythmic conversations that I don’t understand. I wait. I lay my head on the table but feel weird closing my eyes with so many people walking right by me on the other side of the glass. I wait.
when B. walks through the door, beard and puffy and all, smiling, everything is instantly better. he gives me one of his bear hugs, and he leads me across six lanes of traffic and down the next dark road to his house, bike wheels spinning in the slush beside us. he tells me to remember to turn at the ‘happy cleaners,’ the one with the big neon yellow smiley face on the front, and that his apartment is the door after the house with the sparkly snowflake garlands wrapped around the iron railings. I will remember. I’m just glad he’s here.
thinking about the people I truly care about in my life makes me think even more. they make me think about amazing things… in the actual sense of the word, of being kind of in awe of something big and wow and how. it’s amazing how one person can spin your day around. it’s amazing how one person can even spin your life around. it’s amazing just how amazing one person can be. it’s amazing how much one person can fill you. and empty you. it’s amazing how much you can think about and feel for one person and still keep on living without them. I don’t understand it. but I know how much one person can mean to me.