country mouse, part V, communion

country mouse, part V, communion

59th Commission on the Status of Women, International Women’s Day Parade, Beijing +20, photo: Kelly Salasin

I arrived in the city engulfed by the enormity of the population here, feeling both crowded and alone, intruded upon and abandoned; but over the course of 7 days, I began to notice patterns beneath the surface of chaos…

In the way one woman’s thigh comfortably flanked mine in the subway car.

How we could each let our guard when other women were beside us.

The framed Maya Angelo poem on the wall of the subway car.  The Courtesy Guidelines chiding “man sprawl.” The Sexual and Inappropriate Touch warnings.

The kind voice of the driver over the loud speaker, welcoming visitors, students, residents and indicating which stop we were approaching and which one was to come.

The sense of collective relief when a handful of passengers made it through the doors just before the train departed again.

How we all ignored the man with the atrocious cough, and the other one who attempted to speak to each of us as he stumbled through the car.

The pause of the elderly woman to thank me when I put out an arm to help her to her feet.

The circle of officers chatting on the platform.

The laughter and awe of a crowd circling a performance of dance at the station.

How quickly the Shuttle, the Downtown, the Uptown, the 6, the 1, became familiars.

The constant deluge of billboards on walls, and stairs, and subway cars advertising the latest play or upcoming television series that I desperately wanted to see simply to resolve the pressure.

How I rushed like the rest of them, even though I was in no hurry.

How I wished I was a smoker, not for nicotine, but for the reminder to breathe in and breathe out, breathe in and breathe out.

Stopping to help a foreigner purchase a subway ticket.

The searching smiles of other passerbys. The ecstatic traveler.

All those unplugged, and all those talking to themselves, with and without, wires.

Pointing the direction to Central Park.

The new baby at the cafe. The new baby on the subway car. The new baby in her father’s arms.

Lovers. School groups. Tour guides. Families.

Two different women who told me not to park there because if I didn’t get a ticket for the fire hydrant, I’d get a ticket for being on the wrong side.

The man on the stoop who told me that the sign about “No Standing” confused him too.

In this clashing culture of crowds and singularity, there was so much separation, yet there was also communion, and it was abiding and filled with the absence and presence of love.

(This is the last in a series of posts from a week in the city: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV.)

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