It’s funny how everything always seems to come full circle. You might think you see the last of something, but then it comes back later on in full force. Maybe it’s evolved into something new, but it’s there.
“And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make” from the Beatles’ “The End” comes to mind.1
A few days ago I was riding uptown from work on the subway. I’ve been sick this week, and on this particular day that I am heading to class from work, I have reached the peak of my sickness.
Unsurprisingly–but still disappointingly enough–there aren’t any empty seats into which I can collapse all of my sickness, so I stand in my typical spot by the sliding doors, where I know I won’t have to move out of the way for the next two stops.
At the Brooklyn Bridge stop, three large guys get on the subway. Or perhaps ‘large’ is an understatement–massive might be the better term. I’m pretty sure they’re football players. They’re so massive that they latch onto a bar attached to the ceiling of the subway car that I hadn’t previously known even existed, because short people never think to look that high.
Every time the subway car jolts it coincides with one of them playfully smashing the others in the shoulders. They’re discussing one of their buddies, a young fellow who is surely equally as massive as they are, but he is not present at this time.
The thing is, it seems that these massive guys are holding on to this newly apparent bar with merely their pinkies. Because as they chortle about something that happened at the bar a few nights ago, and smash each other and do what football players (I don’t even know if they were football players, really) do, the one closest to me seems to totter, looming above me, threatening to crush me against the subway car.
I can still see his gray shirt filling my vision. I can still remember my crippling fear that he would fall on top of me and not realize what he’d done until it was too late. I imagined the newspapers the next morning: “SICK GIRL SMOTHERED BY MASSIVE LINEBACKER ON SUBWAY LINE.”
(I was really delirious by this point.)
While all of this is occurring, a man sitting in the seat next to where I’m standing sneezes. I bless him, probably trying to bless myself in my own way, too, because I feel like I’m going to pass out. Taken aback, the man looks up and thanks me. I’m reminded of the time I was in Starbucks a few weeks ago and thanked the barista–even wished her a good day and she, me in return–and received a slew of confused looks from other impatient patrons.
For the rest of the ride, the man in the seat kept looking up at me looking at the large guy, noticing my plight. And when we finally reached Union Square and he stood up to leave, he turned to me and said something.
“Sorry?” I asked. I wasn’t sure if he was giving me his seat or what–my ears were pretty stuffed.
“Have a good day,” he repeated. He wasn’t particularly smiling, but I could sense an earnest appreciation in his voice.
I smiled back and thanked him, wishing him the same. He went on his way.
I’m not sure how this relates to things coming full circle–except I felt like even though I felt miserable and looked miserable, I still “blessed” him. And when he wished me a good day, I suddenly felt a lot better. Especially since I survived the subway ride.
Now, I don’t intend this blog to always be about me and my encounters with people, but NYC always gets a bad rep for its people’s kindness, and I’m here to say it ain’t so.2
Another instance of everything coming full circle is last weekend, when I was at Starbucks. (I know, I clearly need a new place to frequent. I’m a creature of habit.) This man came in and sat about eight feet away from me. And I hate to say this, but he smelled terrible. The odd thing was that he didn’t “look” homeless, although I have observed that homeless can look like pretty much anything, so how am I to know.
What was odd about it was that he would get up every ten, fifteen minutes or so to get more coffee. The reason why I know this is because I was kind of waiting for him to leave. I mean, the smell was bad–so bad that I actually watched another woman sitting by the path this man needed to walk through to get to the counter gag and look around for the source. We made eye contact and I solemnly nodded, somewhat reassured that it wasn’t all in my head. Every time he left for a few minutes I would take a huge gulp of air, as awful as it sounds.
He left after about an hour or so of me trying in vain to concentrate on what I was working on. Shortly afterward, another guy came in and went to sit down at the table at which the man had been sitting. Within a few minutes I noticed out of the corner of my eye that he’d gone and asked a barista to come over and clean the area.
At this point, goshdarnit, I couldn’t help myself. I turned fully around to get a good look at what was occurring behind me.
Rubbernecking allowed me to finally see what the man had been doing in between getting up over and over again. He’d left seven or eight half-empty venti Starbucks cups on the table. Scattered among the cups, numbering in the thirties or forties, were ripped open packs of Splenda. Sugar and coffee were everywhere. It was very bizarre.
So how does this all come back full circle? you may be asking, if you’ve read this far.
The universe must not have liked the not-quite subtle looks I had been giving this man in Starbucks, silently begging him to leave, because the following hot Sunday, when I got on the L and the doors closed behind me, I smelled something not so good. A couple of stops in, and a few looks from the guy standing in the seat next to where I was standing, I remembered something I hadn’t remembered earlier: deodorant.
I ended up getting off at the next stop so I could catch another subway to go home and apply some.
Now to be fair, upon returning to my apartment I did give myself a sniff just to see if it was me–and it wasn’t. But it could have been a few stops down the line.
1For your listening pleasure.
2Probably one of my favorite This American Life segments. To be fair, this debuted in 1997–back when Sex & the City was just beginning and iPhones weren’t a thing and people talked to each other a little more than they do now. But it’s still great, nonetheless. The final segment, which includes a Frank Sinatra impersonator, is the best.