28 years old, Buenos Aires
Waiting for the train...
Today I woke up happy, but now, waiting for the train, I feel really melancholy.
It is impossible to escape the light here. They say New York is the city that never sleeps but this one doesn’t either. By the time night clubs closes, cafes are opening. I fucking hate living in a god damn city this big. Everyone is a piece of shit pretentious self-centered fucker wearing the mask of an inflated ego. I have tried to live here. I have tried as hard as I know how to fit in, anywhere. All the things everyone tells me to do, that just isn’t me. To integrate here, I don’t think it will ever happen. I’m too driven but also too broken. I’m too independent but too dependent. Too stubborn. Too feminist. Too realistic. Too ambitious. Too outside the box, but not enough to be “counter culture.”
It’s hot today.
A train heading the opposite direction slams the doors shut, but not before letting out an ear-piercing screech, the notification that the doors were about to close. They close so hard that the rubber on the door edges bounce and reverberate with the door slam. As the train pulls a way, I catch wind of a lone saxophone player making music for the passengers on one of the train cars. The notes are whisked away as the train barrels down the tracks.
Today I’m dressed like I see lots of women dress. Black bra, white tank top, that doesn’t even try to hide the bra. I thought I looked cool until I saw my 360-degree reflection courtesy of the elevator in my building. I noticed the obvious rolls of fat that stand out if I don’t maintain perfect posture. Ghostly pale skin contrasts with the fake tan I tried to spray on. I can see cellulite in my upper arms and shoulders. It makes me cringe. I rode all the way down to the ground floor and immediately went back up to my apartment. My boyfriend reassured me that I look good and rushed me out the door. I was running late for an appointment.
Standing on the platform, I try to ignore the thoughts about what I look like and focus on something else. Anything else. At least I know that the reality is, I don’t know these people and they don’t care about me.
I’m sitting on the train now. It’s one of the trains that doesn’t allow passengers to walk between the cars. I’m still not entirely comfortable with what feels like a lack of personal space.
An elderly man didn’t have a seat on the subway. I scooted over to give him room, but he had a lot of trouble sitting down so I switched spots to give him a handle with which to help him sit. He exudes kindness and unconditional love. A woman is trying to sell flashlights shaped like minions. He first told her that he hopes for happiness and love in her heart. Then he waited until she came around again and he gave her an alfajor he had in his bag. He said to me, “May god bless you and your heart” just for giving him my seat.
My language skills are so bad lately, I’m embarrassed by them.
He continued to talk to me, but I couldn’t understand most of it.
The cramped train is less than comforting. A light is flickering, the page flashes quickly between two shades.
The subway is packed, although I’ve definitely seen more people crammed in a subway car.
More people are filing in with each stop. One passenger decided he had to stake his claim. He aggressively pushed people out of his way and forced an opening for himself. He then slid down to crouch, leaning against the wall. That didn’t last long and he went all the way to the floor with his back against the wall and legs sprawled out. I think he wanted to inconvenience more people. He ended up practically laying on the dirty floor of the subway. He refused to acknowledge other people who were trying to get past him to exit the train. He stared at his iPhone and spoke nonchalantly with the woman he came on the train with. She stood near him, looking slightly embarrassed by her counterpart’s awkward choice of seating.
A woman just walked onto the train and she is wearing the same outfit as me: high-waisted jeans, a belt, white tank top tucked in and a black bra visible on the sides of the loose tank top. Only we look completely different. She is model thin, like most women in Argentina.
I want to overcome this self-conscious feeling. I have only one body with which to live this life.
What do I see clearly? What is the mirage?
The drunken man singing out of tune for pesos on the subway. Or do I see the lighthearted woman who joyfully smiles and gives him a fist bump and claps at the end of his ear-piercing screech. Do I see the guy manspreading and refusing to stand up and give his seat to a nursing mother holding an infant? Or do I get up and happily give up my seat? Do I appreciate the moment of appreciation and gratitude? Am I grateful I can stand and have no need to sit? My legs work and I am healthy. Those are moments to focus on.
I think this is progress.
18 December 2017
By Kristance Harlow
Journal Journeys is not published in real time, unless otherwise noted. The purpose is to open a dialogue on topics too few are willing to talk about: mental illness, addiction, domestic violence. If we fear we cannot speak about it, then the shame will keep us from seeking help when we need it most. It can get better.