Upper West Side
Midway between the 72nd and 59th Street Stations
Front left corner seat of the downtown A train.
It happened again this morning and if I don't make a point of remembering it now, the instance will disappear amongst all the other input, visual, audible and otherwise, that the city force-feeds you.
I was on the way to an early morning Sunday run in the park when I saw a woman in tears. She was sitting next to another woman, a friend, who was nodding seriously as the crying woman talked and wept and wiped her eyes and wept some more. There are few more private moments than those of sorrow. I say it happened again because this is the fourth or fifth instance in the past month where I have come upon someone in grief.
The first was a man. Standing mid-sidewalk, stock still, head down, arms by his sides, the tears dropping from his eyes onto his shoes, he swayed just a little before taking a deep breath and a single step. He shook his head three or more times and stared downward, waiting for the tears to come again.
The next was a young woman, well dressed and coiffed, sitting in one of the back booths of the Lyric crying silently as her salad waited for her attention. She had taken some papers out of her briefcase and laid them on the table. She wrote something on one of them and tapped her coffee cup with the pen then wrote something else near the bottom of the page. That's when the salad arrived. That's when the tears started.
I could be wrong about this next one. It's been cold running in the park and those could have been just watery eyes on the jogger's face, something brought about by running towards a North Wind rather than real tears. Or it could have been pain in a knee or a hamstring or some other runner's woe, but it looked like some other kind of grief to me.
The morning's woman was heartbroken over something that had happened or hadn't happened. I couldn't hear anything she was saying between her sobs to her friend but the explanation was long and tortured and full of hurt. As she told the story she seemed to remember even more painful details and she wept and sobbed and tried hard to stay calm. Her friend just let her talk it all out handing her a second and then a third Kleenex. The woman crushed them into little bluish balls and dabbed the corners of her eyes with them.
They announced in mid-month that the stationary store down the street was closing. Kantor's was one of those neighborhood fixtures, one of those little places jammed packed with office supplies and paper goods, birthday cards and ink cartridges, pens of every known style and price from $1.00 to holy-cow-how-much? But they couldn't compete with the spread of Office Depots and Staples and Kinkos. They tried to hold on for a long time, but the business shrunk with each passing year. So, in the two weeks following the announcement they sold everything off at next to nothing prices - a fist-full of pens for a buck and half, reams of copy paper for two bucks, the display cabinets yours for a folded fifty.
The staff was all brave and bitter at the same time, the losing side of a closely played game. I came in to say goodbye a couple of times. Shook hands with Abe, shook hands with Nathan, bought some more pens.
I guess it was last Tuesday morning as I hustled from the gym to get my morning coffee that I noticed how empty the space looked behind the locked gates. There wasn't much of anything left. The counter had been moved a couple of feet from it's normal spot and on top of it there was an incredibly ugly clock, one that apparently they had not even been able to give away let alone sell. I was swept by a feeling of sadness and loss. Just a couple of tears fell, not many, just enough to make someone walking by wonder what the city was force-feeding that man in the blue tights to make him cry.
Joe('Twas brillig this morn)Nation