Tuesday, October 20, 2009

New York Exhaustion

On the subway last Sunday afternoon, I sat next to a young African American mother and her daughter of about six years as they both slumbered deeply, seemingly undisturbed, despite the constant pivot of the rattling subway car and the raspy announcements that pierced the air every minute or two. They slept leaning into each other in a particularly endearing way, with the mother's arm tightly wound around the daughter's waist and the daughter's head resting softly on the mother's raised left thigh. Every now and then, the daughter lifted her head in a close-eyed daze of sleepiness, then dropped it again jerkily onto her mother's leg. The mother did not move at all.

How had these people spent the day and the previous night? What had they been doing to be so utterly exhausted? What late night vigil had they kept? What sick relative had they nursed? What second or third job had the mother squeezed into her impossible schedule, while her little daughter, out of necessity, accompanied her.
Where were they going now? And how far would they have to go before finally finding a comfortable and secure resting place?

1 comment:

  1. Public transportation takes on a new meaning when you think about the private things that we all do while riding. Some, like this vignette, arouse feelings of endearment and protection, others are just plain embarrasing in the depths of personal revelation presented. Of all the American cities I have visited, New York, and Manhattan in particular, is the place where these episodes are part of the daily landscape.