The Bird on the Subway

Without much warning at all, Spring has arrived in New York.

This season is so full of life: my favorite flower is in bloom, colorful raincoats and a bright spectrum are bursting from the back of makeshift-closets in makeshift-apartments, and the air just feels crisp. Even in the city, there is an undeniable freshness in the air, and as if New Yorkers are coming out of hibernation, everyone seems enlightened. Though it is a time of transition between the cold and the blistering hot, fellow inhabitants have been more inclined to make conversation about the changing temperatures, probably because weather is always an easy topic of interest to lead with or make meaningless conversation about. Nevertheless, I couldn’t be happier about the onset of a new season, apart from one thing this particular one brings:

Rain.

I’m lucky my hair is naturally pretty wavy if I let it air dry – but with the city humidity somehow doesn’t even compare to the sticky stench in the South, causing my locks to frizz and curl in embarrassing directions as soon as one drop hits the pavement. And then there are the careless cars and trucks that speed through intersections right past women like me who are silly enough to stand as close as possible to the other street before they cross it, causing splashes that actually drench you, unlike Carrie Bradshaw’s opening scene where she’s simply drizzled on.

But worse than the rest, the problem with a place already saturated with a high population is when the sky revels in rain, everyone thinks they need an umbrella. Even when it is merely misting, everyone will pay whatever they have to pay to find protection- what went for $3.50 will go for $10, and the merchants get excited to sell out when the clouds turn gray. So walking down the street, with or without a personal overhang becomes a nightmare of dodging and lifting, nodding to the person coming at you to see if they will go above or under, and praying you don’t lose an eye before heading underground.

Not rain’s greatest fan, I was more than happy to descend the subway steps into a passageway that would protect me from the soon-to-be-passerngers unsuccessfully managing their rain-only accessories. Standing near the doors, reading this week’s New York mag, I attempted to flatten my hair and stand somewhat tall for the ten stops uptown to my gym. Leaving Times Square, the indicating sound of doors closing and opening ended and as if I was driving the curvy roads in my hometown, I heard a bird chirping. The sweet song caught me off guard – I can’t remember the last time I could hear a feathery-friend’s lyrics– I looked up from reading and met the eye of a mid-aged woman sitting across from me. Her expression, much like mine was of stunned delight paired with frank confusion, and we both turned our ears toward the sound, where we noticed we were not the only ones who noticed this unfamiliar voice.

Before I had a moment to examine the cart, near the ceiling, a little wren flew past me. Everyone on the subway, except for those drowned by their iPods, noticed this unusual straphanger and watched it go. Aware I didn’t know the first thing about capturing a bird or luring it out of anything, much less a moving train, I sat still intently observing, and hoped someone would help free it. As we approached 50th street, a few red-line riders stopped people from getting in and within a few seconds that felt like hours, the wren discovered an opening and made its escape.

It was difficult to go back to reading about Wall Street after semi-meeting the wren – as MTA doesn’t usually allow birds to have Metro cards. Because it was so unexpected, yet such a lovely thing to behold, I found myself identifying with the bird on the subway. This sounds as crazy to me to type as it does for you to read, but like a fish out of water, a bird in a subway just doesn’t quite go with the status quo or nature’s way.

And while I’ve finally mastered the transit system without having to Google (much) and I’m able to get recommendations to restaurants and unknown gems I’ve actually been entertained at (a few anyways), a lot of the time, I feel like a bird in the subway – still unsure of how this city is growing on me. I have friends who have been here for a handful of years, some who have never known any other address, and a couple who are ready to leave – and they each remind me that I’ll come to learn things about this place the longer I’m here. I’m told I’ll be jaded, I’ll discover why New York is notorious for its difficult mating , eh – I mean dating scene, I’ll figure out the parts to avoid, and I’ll stop doing things in the Southern tradition or with the same uninhabited optimism that I still mainly lead my life with.

I do get asked for directions on the street, but I wouldn’t say I look the part of a New Yorker, and I know I don’t play it. My friend and co-worker J, encourages me to buy more black every time we go shopping at lunch; my friend E’s famous words are “wait until you’ve been here five years, then we’ll talk“; and my friend K continues to amaze me with her endless knowledge and experiences of dining and dating – both things I’m discovering I have a lot to learn about. Manhattan isn’t on a pedestal anymore – it is a real, physical place, that feels much more like home than North Carolina – though I’ve always thought the term “home” consists of where the people you love the most are. Luckily for me, I follow e.e. cumming’s advice and I carry all the hearts I need in my own heart, so I can make a home anywhere.

And this city is home but maybe it hasn’t made a home with me yet. Maybe it’s still letting me fly through the carts, discovering what I can, determining which stop is my stop, and finding my way out of places that don’t suit me – with a little assistance from those who can open doors I can’t. Maybe time isn’t a measure of adapting or accepting where you are in your life, emotionally or determined by the U.S. Census, but sometimes it takes a few rainfalls to free yourself from all that was holding you back, and sing your own sweet song on the streets.

And not politely as a Southerner would do, but at whatever pitch and tempo you preferred, at whatever hour of the night, regardless of who was or wasn’t watching, like a New Yorker who’s more concerned with the stride of the city than those who think she’s out-of-place. When in fact, she’s exactly where she needs to be…for now.

Beauty, Blessings & Bird Poop

This weekend, I was in a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad mood.

When I left the office on Friday, I went out for a drink with a man, who was so incredibly boring he doesn’t even deserve a Mr. title on this blog. As he selfishly discussed himself and his only question to anything I told him was “Oh, well, will I be on the blog? I could be Mr. Dreamy,” -I thought of the many ways I could have a dramatic exit, shouting out words that for the time being, I’m censoring.

After letting him know I was busy, for, oh I don’t know, forever – I caught the train uptown, listened to angry-rock band music, and avoided eye contact with any other straphangers. By the time I made it to the grocery store, picked up a miniature pint of ice cream and two rom coms, I was beyond frustrated and annoyed – I was flat out sad.

Cuddled up in my bed, watching a flick I already know the plot and ending to, I wondered what was wrong with me. Here I was, on a Friday night after a so-called “date” – protecting myself from the cold and perhaps, from the stress that can sometimes come with going out for the night. I looked outside, across the way into the windows of buildings beside me, and decided I needed to make a genuine effort to be hopeful and put-together the next day, as spending one night of the weekend in bed was acceptable, but not two.

Needless to say, I didn’t put forth too much of a fight and even cancelled plans on my friend J – further making me feel miserable for being unreliable. But for whatever reason, the only thing in the entire world, in this big beautiful city, I had a desire to do was to curl myself up in bed again, far away from anyone and anything.

Realizing I was home and alone on a night I should be mingling, flirting, or at least giggling with my friends – I took out a fancy bottle of wine I received as a gift from my publisher’s wife, and decided to uncork it. I had intended on saving it for a celebration when the next monumental change happened in my life, but where there’s a thirst for Merlot, the only medicine to hit the spot is Merlot.

By glass number three, I had almost forgotten I was doing a 12-step program. I started examining myself in the mirror, pulling and tugging on what I thought was ugly, sucking it in, trying on jeans I already knew didn’t fit, and sighing, when low-and-behold, they didn’t zip up. I attempted to clean my apartment, while condemning myself for only doing laundry once a month and barely cleaning my dishes more than once a week. I then decided to get ahead on my freelancing and blog posts, but ended up lingering and nit-picking at my sentences, before concluding I just wasn’t as good of a writer as the day before. And then, the temptation of Facebook became too much to resist, along with that fourth glass of wine, and against my better judgment and lessons I’ve learned over the last five months – I stalked every ex-boyfriend I’m still linked to. After seeing one-kissy face too many, I started dreaming of all the things I’ve ever wanted and then worrying that I’ll never have them. That I’ll never reach my goals, that I’ll never work for the magazine I want to work for, that I’ll never have a nice apartment, that I’ll never own $700 shoes, that I’ll never (yep, here it is) fall in love again. As I thought of everything I desired, I settled on the fact that what I really needed right then and there was….a man.

A tall, muscular, loving and funny guy. One with a great story. One who amidst every other woman who walked the world, he wanted to stand side-by-side with me. And as I hid under the covers, pedicure socks on and all, I closed my eyes and imagined what it would feel like for him to wrap his arms around me, whisper “Baby, I’ll keep you warm,” and fall asleep with the stubble on his chin and the stickiness of his breath tickling the back of my neck.

This of course, got me to thinking of the last man who slept in my bed and I started wondering what was wrong with me that I didn’t accept Mr. Possibility’s offer for an all-expenses paid, week-long trip to stay with him while he’s overseas. I mean, the weather there is 70 and above, the beaches are warm, he’s staying in a multi-million dollar hotel that’s fancier than anything I could afford. Plus, I’d get to see him every single night, eat more shrimp than I can fathom, and did I mention the suite had one of those Jacuzzi tubs? Before drifting to sleep, I slightly came out of my negative Nancy mentality and remembered another gal’s possibilities had been on those sheets, and though it would have been wonderful – I’d rather have my dignity.

By the time Monday rolled around and I was stuck in the office, unlike most of Manhattan, I still couldn’t shake my unhappiness. With our next issue going to press on Friday and interviews, and deadlines between now and then, I had more than enough to focus on – but yet, my mind was scattered. I kept concentrating on all of my shortcomings and wondered if I was doing enough. Are there more ways I can promote the blog? Can I help people in areas I’m not touching on? Are my blogs getting worse? Is this where I should be in my career right now? Am I saving enough money? Should my run time be better? Is that a new zit on the side of my cheek, I mean, really?

When the clock struck one and I needed to hop the train to meet a mentor for lunch, I walked slow (which is unlike me) and everyone who crossed my path was victim to my notorious death stare that I can never seem to hide, even when I try (not that I was, though). As I listened to her give me advice, support, and praises, I kept telling her how nervous I was and how I didn’t know what to do. After nodding her head along, watching my glass (and attitude) continue to turn half-empty, she simply said: “You know, you’re on this journey to self-love and you believe in it – so why don’t you believe in yourself, as much as you believe in the process?” She had a point, but I still couldn’t shake my mood.

And then, as we were saying our goodbyes outside, I felt something fall from above and hit my pink peacoat, the side of my head, and my ear muffs. I look to figure out what it is and stick my leather gloves right into a nice, warm, splatter of bird poop. When she reassures me it isn’t that bad, I defiantly cut my eyes at the bird, who looks down, with his little happy bird face and twerps. Before I can figure out how to reach him and ring his neck, I hurry back into the café to clean myself off, in a huff.

As I’m wiping my hair, rinsing my gloves, thinking of dry cleaners in my neighborhood, and watching my eyes well up with tears I think, “Well, it’s appropriate isn’t it, Linds? You’ve been shitting on yourself all weekend, so of course, a bird is going to follow in your footsteps.”

And with that, I smile, shake my head, gather myself together, put on my current musical obsession, and head back to the train. Because sometimes, you just have to laugh at your ridiculousness, forgive yourself for having an off couple-of-days, and keep in mind that the point of a journey isn’t the destination, but the steps along the way. That even when you don’t feel lovely or like things are going in the right direction, there is always beauty and blessings to be found around each corner, if we remember to look for them.

There also happens to be bird poop, as well. But from what I hear, it’s a sign of good luck. Right?

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