Tuesday, November 4, 2008

It is often said, that, next to great joy, no state of mind is more frolicsome as great distress. -James

I ride the subway many days with the same people. There's a couple I watch scrutinizingly--they have been my hope for true love, in fact. I started to see them in the midst of the commencement of their courtship: awkward Brooklynistas, not quite hipster/not quite professional, obviously moved to 'the city' from somewhere like Missouri or Minnesota. So much left to be discovered, they are roughly my young age (25) with only a partially existential view of what it means to live and love (it is assumed that with age we gain wisdom but perhaps we only grow less naive... a friend recently told me that "[we] gain a kind of more subtantial naivete in the form of hope and care when begin to grow older"). In any case, there was timidity coupled with promise in their eyes. Though are we all jaded, even at 25, are we all rough around the edges? It seems that conviction comes on stronger than ever when you're young and in a new city, so much so that it can be almost blinding -- not quite ego, but not quite explicated thoughts formulated in meticulous detail. These two, I concocted in my early-morning-pre-coffee-loathe-to-go-to-work brain, were less challenging, however. Less convicted than most; that they had come together over their mutual simplicity, in a sense, their ability to disconnect from reality while simultaneously attempting to gain ground in life experience by schlepping through Brooklyn ,working in the city, utilizing public transit (doing the things that we are told will make us interesting when we're older and when we've naturally returned 'home' to 'settle')... in any case, they looked happy. They were cute. They were cute and they looked happy. Neither of them had any striking aesthetic offerings or distinct style--they were sort of cut out of Hipster Granola Journal, thick framed glasses and the like. She wears skirts with boots, but not interesting boots. Just round-toed dark brown boots. I didn't see them every day, only maybe once a week or every two weeks and always, ALWAYS down the train at least half a car--though when I did see them we were in the same car so that I could oh so perfectly observe them. Everyone I know in New York makes stories up about people they ride with on the subway. I pull this Sophie Calle style of voyeurism (or at least I equate it as such to justify it so) I guess not just on the subway, but even in so far as watching people through their windows, making up stories about people in stores and bodegas I frequent, my neighbors, etc. It's the result of a city where everyone is literally on top of each other and you become very close with an intensely small percent of this population. I fall in love on the subway at least once a month, solely in my mind. It becomes elaborate, especially when you're seeing the same people over lengths of time.
So after six months or so of seeing them, I got to the point where I would start looking for an engagement ring on this girls finger--I knew it would have to be coming soon. They were straight smitten, he was probably half a foot taller and, as they grabbed on to the subway handles, she would gaze up into his eyes and they would laugh. They would rarely read or listen to music, preferring each other's company and conversation. They must have seen me gawking at them, but paid no mind. They didn't seem to be showing off their love, but they also weren't hiding it. This is not to say that I am wont for the type of relationship they had. I find myself a bit more, well, raucous or intense in general, less passive, but they were doing it day in and day out, being together in a city and a circumstance that presents challenges and obligations of diversion on a daily basis. They rode together.
You can imagine my unbridled, though downright nervous, excitement when I haphazardly pulled up next to them (right next to them) in our usual car on the G train. And then my stifling suffocating sadness when I heard this conversation soon ensue:
Him: So.... anything new with you and that...duuude?
Her: No, god, shut up.
{They both laugh.}
Him: Sorry! I was just asking. Are there any prospects out there for you?
Her: No.. I don't know. Stop!

It went on like this and I, due to loss of breath, had to sort of retreat. I had my James' New York Stories with me and fell into one at this passage about a man who had recently become un-engaged to a most beautiful woman as narrated from the viewpoint of a good friend:

He turned away and, in the dark empty street, he leaned his arm on the iron railing that guarded a flight of steps, and dropped his head upon it. I left him standing so a few moments--I could just hear his sobs. Then I passed my arm into his own and walked home with him Before I left him, he had recovered his outward composure.
After this, so far as one could see, he kept it uninterruptedly. I saw him the next day, and for several days afterward. He looked like a man who had a heavy blow, and who had yet not been absolutely stunned. He neither raved or lamented, nor descanted upon his writing. He seemed to be trying to shuffle it away, to resume his old occupations, and to appeal to the good offices of the arch-healer, Time. He looked very ill--pale, preoccupied, heavy-eyed, but this was an inevitable tribute to his deep disappointment. He gave me no particular opportunity to make consoling speeches, and not being eloquent, I was more inclined to take one by force. Moral and sentimental platitudes always seemed to me particularly flat upon my own lips, and, addressed to Crawford, they would have been fatally so. Nevertheless, I once told him with some warmth, that he was giving signal proof of being a philosopher. He knew that people always end by getting over things, and he was showing himself able to traverse with a stride a great moral waste. He made no rejoinder at the moment, but an hour later, as we were separating, he told me, with some formalism, that he could not take credit for virtues he had not.
"I am not a philosopher," he said; "on the contrary. And I am not getting over it."

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