Wednesday, August 16, 2006

today's encounters

Getting coffee in an unfamiliar café, the man starts dancing. You make me dance, mademoiselle, he says. He asks if I work in the area. He pronounces my boyfriend lucky.

The neighbor says I look familiar. I tell him I get that a lot and don’t stop. Didn’t I meet you in a bar on the west side? You were with your girlfriend? Five months ago? he asks. I don’t think so, I say. I haven’t been here that long. He asks where I have come from, and I answer honestly, and cross the street. They must miss you there, he says, and then calls after me, Hey girl, good luck!

I think I will have a complex relationship with this city, more complex than I have ever had with any city anywhere. I think I will both love it and hate it, be both excited and afraid and joyous. Finally, perhaps, the outside will match how I feel about writing, how I have always felt. Just when I have made up my mind, I see something, experience something, that makes me change it, that makes me believe it, makes me forget all that came before, makes me re-learn and remember faith.

On the subway escalator home mid-morning, arms full of farmer’s market packages (fish, strawberries, greens), my nightmare happens. The escalator stops, brakes to a sudden and inexplicable halt right as we are riding it down. The steps on either side of me are full of commuters. We are thrown forward. We all buckle our knees and lean as if we have been kicked in the back. My head snaps like a whip and my stomach flips. Someone shouts. The stranger beside me, a teenage girl with many long dark braids, and I instinctively reach out and grasp each other’s hands.

Oh my God, she says.
Are you okay? I ask.
Yeah. You?
Yeah, I say.

We are still holding hands. We give each other a quick squeeze, one squeeze and then go, she downtown and I uptown, in different directions without looking back.