I miss reading while riding the train. I preferred to stand so I would, either, find a free space to lean against the side of the car or I’d wrap my arm around a pole, and I would read. When living in The Bronx I would get on the train at Parkchester and ride it, usually to 86th and Lex, but sometimes further. That is a twenty minute ride, at least. I had nearly an hour of reading time every day simply by riding the train. My problem now is the time, where do we find the time to read? Eh, actually, I have more than enough time, but how do we decide to allot our time to one thing over another?
Sometimes, on the train, something intriguing would redirect my attention. I have too many accounts for it not to be difficult to even come up with one. I do recall one late night when I was riding the train back from Brooklyn—from Brooklyn to The Bronx mind you, so it was a bit of a ride—and a young man, he may have been homeless, and/or just completely out of his mind, sits down next to this older African American woman. He faces her and begins talking to her, only he started in the middle of a sentence, as if an earlier conversation of his had abruptly ended and he arbitrarily decided on this moment to best represent the end of his story—assuming, of course, that there is a discernible ending. The woman wasn’t entirely too phased, her only reaction to this character was to hold her purse a little closer to her chest, although that might be habitual for her, who knows, while she read her book. She was reading. No, but that didn’t stop this guy from talking to her. And, no, what he had to say was not coherent, there were very few coherent ideas coming from his lips, nevertheless it was entertaining, and enough so even for me to put my finger between the pages, marking my place, while I blatantly stared at the happening. His eyes were glazed, I don’t remember him blinking, once. He just stared straight ahead into-, and through the train telling his incoherent story seemingly to this woman but, really, to nobody at all. When he stood to leave. I can’t imagine he actually knew where he was getting off, he must have made the trip so often that the entirety was as automatic as a dog finding his way home after being left somewhere far, far away. He left, and then I continued to read.
There is something happening to eye contact. The way people engage with one another. It’s all changing so rapidly, well maybe not even changing, it’s just disappearing, and I honestly don’t think it’s only the way that we interact in person, I, sometimes believe that it’s the undoing of all interactions. How we talk to people and why. I do not recognize this world as the same one I grew up in. And I grew up in the 90’s, I mean, this wasn’t that long ago. Before I moved to New York City I bought a pocket sized travel book called, NFT: Not For Tourists Guide to New York City, and at some point in the book is expressly states not to make eye contact with people on the train. A handful of the stigmas that book created took me a couple of years to unlearn. Eventually I was making eye contact with almost everybody on the train, because that is a human response to other humans. We make eye contact. If you look at people a certain way or are not conscious about what you’re feeling or thinking while your maintain eye contact you might discover some surprising, and unfriendly reactions, but that’s only because we emit what we feel and what we think by how we look at someone inasmuch the same way that we do when we communicate with them verbally, the vast majority of our interactions are nonverbal. So shutting yourself off to the people around you, in the train car, and in the world it isn’t going to create a safer or better place for you, it might sometimes feel safer, but, I mean does it really? This crack head that was sitting on the train telling us his incoherent story was completely out of his mind, but he was harmless because we allowed him to be human—regardless of how different his humanity is from our own.
I’m not sure how I got off on this tangent exactly. I know that every time I read a book a big part of the reason that I lose myself in the story is because I am not satisfied with the direction society has gone. We talk about creating a better world, and change, and then we argue about what that means, and we are always wrong. With every step that we take we think that we are headed in the right direction, and still we consistently manage to f$%k it up. Meanwhile I’m trying desperately to lead some semblance of a normal life, but, really, all that I want to do is go build a cabin in some remote woodland area—if I can find one—or to live on my long anticipated dream boat and return to ‘civilization,’ if only immensely dire: such as the imminently problematic, and unlikely event that my boat is sinking.
I actually haven’t read anything new in way too long—I’ll leave it up to your own imagination to invent how long is too long in this case, for me—but when you listen to too much news radio and spend even a fraction of the day on Facebook without losing yourself from time-to-time in a good book, or rather when I listen to too much news radio and spend even a fraction of the day on Facebook without losing myself in a good book, it doesn’t matter how green it is outside I know a long weekend of some Golden Milk and several happy pills while binge watching Roku’s background graphic is in store for me or I am going to lose my mind!
I suppose that is part of the reason why I miss riding the train, and reading so much. For nearly an hour every day I would both read and be surrounded by people just being people: I would occasionally hear conversations spark up between strangers, random people singing, the occasional argument, but nevertheless everyone on the train, whether aware of the people around them or not, they affected one another—if only for that hour, and my head could be buried in that book so deeply I’ve missed my stop, and the next one, and the next, nevertheless all the people sharing that car with me became a part of that story in ways that I cannot always know.
I am a freelance author, writer, critic, artist, and entrepreneur living in the Heart of the Texas Hill Country.