I had many thoughts on my way back home from work today. There I was at 8 p.m. again, at my usual appointment: the one empty seat on the train.
I sat there listlessly, crammed in between two other bodies, my brain unable to process the stress of the day. I was like a hot coal, and any thought that touched me quickly evaporated into the atmosphere, leaving behind this terrible think, black line of choking smoke.
I thought about earlier that day when I asked the editor to push a deadline once again. She wrote back that it was fine but that I’d really need to start following them from now on. Unfair, I thought, and instead, I asked her to decrease my writing assignments for the year by half, because I had no time anymore. A fine demand since I’m not getting paid for these articles anyway.
She didn’t have time to reply before I left the office, but on the way back, I felt the infinite abyss of not knowing how she’d respond. F#@&.
My chest felt tight all of a sudden. I breathed in, and nothing came in — the air stopped short at my shoulders, disappearing in pain.
I’d had breathing problems all day long again. I knew it was stress and fatigue. My body has a knack for making up stuff to steer me back into the right path again when it feels slighted about something — in this case, the lack of sleep (due to a hilarious conversation with my roomie in our kitchen last night, about headless hens and the endless dilemma of butter vs. margarine) and the high levels of cortisol that poisoned my system today.
But I couldn’t take the lack of breath any longer. In an instant, I got mad, then suddenly I really did say ‘fuck it’ in all its glory inside my head. Fuck it, and fuck it again. All of it.
I rested my head against the back of the seat and breathed in, in and out again, in and out, visualizing the stress dropping on each side, like dryer sheets, smoothly, softly, one after another. And then, I was there … that feeling, that deep realization that nothing, nobody really can touch you, that your spirit runs so deep, it is the abyss itself.
It was quite amazing, and I sat there, wide-eyed I felt, and still in my seat, in the same position (for the whole length of the trip as it turned out), processing what was happening with my mind turned off. And yet a myriad thoughts filled my head at that moment, all beautiful, all profound, all lessons through the lessons i’ve accumulated in this life — like a string, tying its pearls together.
I thought about my dad, as i often do when I reach that inner peace. He came to my mind first, there sitting at the ancient kitchen table in Greece, looking at me squarely under the fluorescent light, narrowing his left eye a bit as he always did. “There are NO free meals,” he tells me, still watching me ominously. He isn’t mad; he’s a philosopher. And this is just another lesson of economics that he feels applies to life.
Years later, I’m sitting in Econ. Not understanding a thing again, despite being weeks away from exams. It’s the 86th day, I’m biting into my bologna sandwich, and we’re talking about meals.
I come back now, and look around me on the train, just to make sure I’m still here. A young man in a hoodie is reading from a leaflet; an old couple looks bored, resting their empty glances ahead on the window. I’m comforted. I sit into myself again and continue my journey.
“Let it go, Natalia,” he says. “Let it go.” It’s Jim now, the healer. In the dim-lit bar, I’m lying on the table, and he’s walking around me, his voice falling clear as crystal. I want to let it go, and I feel it already seeping away from me, away with the meditative tunes wafting around us.
But then, I’m here on the train again. “No free meals,” says Dad, his eye still on me, and he breaks his bread. “Why did he give me that session?” I ask myself again in the mirror and tug on the black circles under my eyes. “He only talks to me about guy things — you know, about women and money. He’s given many women sessions,” says Mark now, then sips his wine and looks away. The glass is cold behind my back, and I wish I’d sat where he had, then I could have a view instead. His glasses perched up on his cheeks, he looks back at me again. “Did they sleep with him?” I ask with a smirk. “They did,” he admits and sips again.
If I were a parent, I’d hate to have a daughter. I’d love her to bits, mind you, but knowing all the crazy things that I’ve done in my life and seeing as to how I’m still alive and intact somehow makes me want to really believe the healer’s assessment. (He holds my hands in his palm now and tells me, “Your spirit is really strong — your soul is so big, your body’s in it instead of the other way around. And you’ve got an amazing angel always over you.”)
Yes, thank you. But the farthest most kids go when it comes to angels is their love of angel-hair pasta. Thus, I believe I’d be either really overprotective (in which case, the little girl will grow up screwed up anyway) or I’d lose my mind. But that’s the future. I can’t even imagine having a kid.
These moments on the train are all I know, and at these times, I feel that nothing else holds as much clarity as what I sense and feel right then. It’s the infinity of truth, and I have a longing to share it with someone. Bottle it up and open it up again, release it later, when I know that I’ll be back, off the train, out of the journey, back trapped within the walls of my body, feeling tiny, so small that I almost lose touch with myself and try to step out of my body so I can watch me interact and assess how I’m doing. But I can’t trap it. It’s pure, it’s independent. It’s elusive.
When I was little, I liked to hide things in corners, roll up scraps of paper or bubble gum wrappers into tiny balls and shove them in cracks on the brick wall or bury them under pine cones. It felt nice. Like I was taking care of my own piece of the world, then storing it safe forever where nobody would find it. And later, no matter what I was doing, whether I was at home or at school or perhaps swinging wildly at the playground, there would be a litter of precious little things lining the trail of my own world that nobody knew existed. And they were safe, and only I knew about them. Nobody could take that away. (Because I would never reveal their locations, even if they asked.)
Some have commented on the surprising twists that my writing takes sometimes, and I’ve wondered too why I do that. Was it the novels I read throughout school? Or was I perhaps trying to escape something? I thought about it on the train again. And remember how I said in a previous entry that everything repeats in this world, everything mirrors everything else? Well, I thought about my interactions with people. The closer I get to the truth, the farther I am from sharing it. I’ll be right next to them, and I will turn to look at them, and I see them, all the time, even through the thick mortar wall between us. But they can’t see me. They don’t know it. Try to reach and you can touch me, and I’ll laugh and feel warm under your caress, but that vein of truth that runs inside me is so far away.
So it’s always been. When I try to share something I care about, a switch in me turns off. “Get it over with quickly, so we can go on,” something inside me hisses, turning away as if in shame, as if angry that I even had the nerve to attempt to make a connection with someone else. As if I’m whoring myself out, giving a part of myself up by offering up a scrap of sentiment.
Other times, I’ll boil with feeling alone in my room, whether it’s about singing or some strange scientific concept that I’ve stumbled upon and felt inspired by. But come time to share that with someone, that thing inside me draws the black blinds shut as if it’s suddenly winter, expelling only the leftovers of fall — the bare facts, which fall short on the cold doorsteps.
But then, despite the impudence of my inner being and the constant cold shoulder at my attempts to adjust, something inside me bubbles: I laugh. “I love you, silly” I tell it, jokingly, endearingly, sitting on that same doorstep, outstretching a hand with long fingernails, offering up a daisy, enticing it to come hither. “Ya, whatever,” the little witch responds from inside. “Too late,” she throws out, as if she’s mad at me again.
I drop my hand, and leave the daisy on the stoop. It’s OK that you’re like this, I want to say. I love you anyway.
The beauty of a private life is that nobody has to understand. You’re all alone in there, free to fight and chuckle, to choose the grass or the marble steps, to linger on every stoop of childhood memory and uncover every hidden treasure behind the brick wall. Free as infinity, and that’s why I don’t mind it when I walk by the stoop again a few days later, and her flower is still lying there in the same position as I left it.