Monday morning. 7:30 AM.
Had funky dreams last night and woke up with extreme blogger’s regret re: what I posted last night. Sometimes, I need to remember to “slow down, stop, and think.”
The residue of last night’s dream is leaving me with a strange feeling. I don’t remember the dream. It’s putting me in a strange place this early—far too early—hot, Monday morning.
I really want to believe the world is a good, beautiful place.
On the one hand, I really believe it in a undoubtedly deep and fundamental way. The world is beautiful. Like I know I have to believe that people are good, I need to believe the world is good. Even with all the evidence to the contrary, I need to believe those things. Perhaps that is the whole crux of my struggle right now. Maybe that’s all it is—wanting to, needing to believe that the world is a good, beautiful place. Wanting to, needing to—believe that people are good, and at the same time, wanting to (needing to?) not believe this because then it hurts all over again when I realize it can’t possibly be true. When, in both my personal and professional life I run up against all those pieces of evidence telling me those two statements are lies.
But at the same time, I’m sitting on the train looking around me at all the faces.
The short, round, Jewish man with a yarmulke and tzitzis, reading his prayers right to left, back to front, nodding, stroking his beard, closing his eyes, consumed by prayer.
The dorky, pimpled college student rocking out to whatever he’s listening to on his ipod, a chemistry textbook in his lap.
The elderly man sitting next to me, sleeping, threatening to fall on my shoulder if we take this next bend just a little too sharply.
The two young African-American twins in matching Baltimore College Dance t-shirts and matching, huge orange sunglasses.
The red-head with the out of control frizzy hair in front of me who’s reading something with a naked woman on the cover.
The woman in the burka a few rows behind me.
It’s amazing. Truly.
We all sit in silence. No eye contact. Plugged into electronic devices, engaged in words or prayer or melody or sleep or thoughts, we do this, every day, with the same group of complete strangers. We ignore one another in favor of planning the dinner menu, reading trashy novels, thinking about what phone calls should be made, where we’re going to get the money for the next cell phone bill, planning our way out of the situation we’re in, planning our futures, or our daughter’s future, or our granddaughter’s future. Some days, it seems like we’re 50 people lost on the same damn train, heading in the same direction, never daring to make eye contact or connect.
A man just got on in a long white dress and a small, tight, white cloth hat. He is young, with a long beard, and dark smooth skin. He is wearing something around his neck and over one shoulder, holding approximately 30 small colored vials. He is plugged into earphones and bobbing his head, smiling broadly, making eye contact. His presence has clearly changed the energy on the train. Everyone is watching him. He continues rocking out to whatever it is he’s tuned into, but he’s very aware of the attention he’s getting. He doesn’t sit down, even though there’s room. He stands in the middle of everything. The woman across from me signals to him. He flashes numbers back to her with his hands. 2. 4. 5. He’s missing several teeth when he smiles.
Another woman signals to him and he pulls one of his earbuds out. “Do you have any nag champa?” she asks. It takes me a minute to understand what she’s asking. She says nag champa so it sounds like “nag” as in “to annoy with unnecessary questioning,” and champa is like “he’s a champ” with an –a on the end. Naaag Champ-a.
I can’t hear his reply as the doors open and close at Lexington Market. As we start moving again and the irritating “ding” that interferes with my eavesdropping stops, I hear him say, “See, I honor the sanctity of the trade. You ask me for nag champa, and I have something with nag champa in it, but I won’t sell you that because it’s not what you asked for.”
She nods. “I appreciate your honesty,” she says.
The woman next to her offers him $1 for something called, “Passion.” He sells it to her, tells her to have a blessed day, and gets of the train. She opens it, rolls it around on her hand, offers some to the naaag champ-a lady sitting perpendicular to her.
Turns out that no matter what she does, the roller on the vial doesn’t roll, so she can’t get any scent out.
“Maybe that’s why he sold it to me for a dollar,” she says.