There’s something funny to me about living in a city so populously large, so dense with people from all corners of humanity, all living and thriving in one place, so completely different from the whitewashed suburbs I grew up in, and the homogeny of washed up TV stars and their wannabes in LA.
New York is the mother of all Big Cities. It’s dense, rich with culture, opportunity, fortune, fame… Bright lights, big city, yadda yadda yadda. But once I heard someone say New York is really more like a small town, and I think it’s true. Yes, there are Big, Ambitious, Exciting things happening here… But when you’ve got a Fruit Stand Guy who gives you an extra carton of strawberries because he thinks you look pretty this morning, and a dry cleaner who knows your name, and you wave to the same housewife walking her dogs every night… That’s small-town stuff.
I was on the train yesterday, standing in a crowded car pressed between the door and a silver bar, when the doors opened at yet another stop that wasn’t mine on the local line. A few people brushed by me to escape the overcrowded confines and give the rest of us a little breathing room, but as the tell-tale ding resounded from above and the doors began to shut, I heard, “Esscuse me! Esscuse me!”
A small man with tan skin and dark hair was behind me suddenly, forcefully pushing a small stroller into the car. I heard a few muffled groans as he burrowed his way into the crowded train, followed by his wife and several other small children, and I pressed myself further into the silver bar against my hip.
The doors finally closed and I rested against them, turning my head to see the smallest toddler I had ever seen staring back at me. His little brown eyes were wild with confusion and curiosity, and his mother held him tightly to her chest as we all swayed, bumping along the tracks. He took me in and I smiled at him to see if I could coax out a grin, eyeing his jagged teeth and smooth, caramel skin, when I became aware of a large, soft pressure against the front of my legs.
I lifted my purse and adjusted my scarf to see another little boy– his brother– leaning back into my legs, head resting on my tummy. He had one hand on his dad’s stroller, with his feet planted between mine, resting fully against me. Nestled in a sea of grown-up legs. His thick winter coat softened the already light weight of his small body, and I returned my scarf and purse to their original positions as I smiled at the soft weight of his innocent familiarity.
As I stood in the crowded train, back pressed to the door next to this large family of little people I didn’t know, and felt this tiny boy using my legs for refuge… The city definitely didn’t seem big.