I was walking down Second Avenue yesterday when I saw a woman retrieving something from the trunk of a cab. She was attractive, mid-twenties, in great shape, and she was pulling out what, on closer inspection, turned out to be a baby stroller. I looked for a baby, and there it was, sitting on the curb in a carrier. This was all taking place in front of a nail salon, and a woman was sitting in the front window while her nails dried. This woman appeared to be in her mid-to-late-thirties and was well put together, but wearing a denim jacket in a failing attempt to somehow give the illusion of youth. She was staring at the baby and the look in her eyes was one of anguish and desperation. You could almost HEAR her thinking, “This is never going to happen for me. What choices did I make in my life that brought me to this place where it’s never going to happen for me?”
It smacked me like a wave, and it was one of those New York feelings that you only let yourself feel every three or four years where you’re just overwhelmed by how everything is too close, there’s too much anguish, it’s all too much in your face. The ragged homeless schizophrenic who mutters “I should call my mom, let her know I’m still alive.” The old man sitting alone in the diner ordering one more cup of coffee so that at least he has another few minutes before he has to return to the empty room where he’s the only one who knows or cares that he exists. The exhausted nurse smoking outside the hospital whose voice cracks on the cellphone as she tells her child that there’s something you can warm up in the oven, be sure to do your homework, I have to work a double shift tonight, I won’t be able to walk with you to school in the morning, before she hangs up the phone and lets the tears just roll. It’s all of it, all around you, and it never stops.
Then the next wave smacked me: The aging fat man, unshaven, shirttail hanging out, hunched demeanor, stopped short on the sidewalk staring at a woman in a nail salon. What’s his story? What sadness is he carrying around with him? Why the fuck won’t he keep walking?
So I kept walking. I mean, what else are you gonna do?