I think the most magnificent things we witness are those which inspire curiosity. The most magnificent moments? When we think we have the world figured out for a mere second only for something so sublime and foreign to cross our paths, changing our perspective forever.
What is seen in not ineffable. There are words to paint this beauty in a vain attempt to capture such a spectacle. What I see is a vast canyon, showing us to what extent we know nothing of the true, detailed, and eventful past that nature has ventured. We are simply visitors. Letting my gaze fall effortlessly upon one of the seven wonders of the world, my thoughts fittingly arise from a single source: wonder.
Today, February 20, I stepped out of the shower and wrapped a soft, warm towel around my wet body. I lifted the towel up to my face and stood still, as I became enveloped by a memory, bringing me back to a life of simple wants and few needs. For a moment, I rose up, floated away, and was back on the train…washing my face in a tiny bathroom, absorbing my wet skin with inefficient paper towels. I was in the bathroom of Union Station, patting down my face with a T-shirt. I was in the bathroom of countless strangers’ apartments, removing water with whatever I could find–toilet paper, dirty towels, hairy cat-infested cloth, my own two-week-worn sweater. I rose up, soared away to drying my body with a 5-square-inch camping towel– not knowing if the prior dampness was semen or water.
And now I am here, motionless, buried within the warmth and softness of a clean, sweat-smelling towel. I laugh without restraint, without wondering why. I’ve been home for three days now.
Pulling my body upright, I turn to analyze myself in an unblemished mirror. So many mirrors across the country have shown the same reflection. I close my eyes and open them once again and I’m gone– I’ve risen up, floated away. The mirror I turn towards is clouded, scratched, vandalized and I see a vague reflection which resembles my own. I’m on the train, being casually thrown side-to-side by the unpredictable motion of the platform beneath me. The image I see is smiling, slightly, in good humor.
I close my eyes and reopen them to see my shell, my cover, my preamble. My mask. I am in joy, in gratitude. I am hungry, I am thirsty, I am lost, I have finally found. I am tired, I am–at last, rested. I, at last, am warm. My face is pale and sleep-deprived as I see my reflection in Chicago. Rosy, alert, clear of acne in NY. Smooth skin, restless eyes in D.C. Sticky hair, glasses, and a spotted face stare back at me through Colorado.
A forced smile, an eager smile, an optimistic smile, a genuine smile… an effortless smile I flash in the mirrors of private restrooms. Bathroom of Japanese food in NY, the deli of Time Square, Thai food in D.C, of a bar in Manhattan, lunch in Sacramento, in the mirrors of countless train stations. And now I’m here,in my own…space. I smile, not knowing what kind.
I spent the night on the train and woke up in Charlottesville, VA to witness a sunrise that makes me glad I didn’t kill myself a year ago. I would’ve died without seeing the Virginia horizon encompass a rising star, awakening my heart and my mind. It felt like waking up in a warm bed next to someone you love, whether family or friend. You open your eyes and are suddenly fully aware of how you woke up in this bed, with this person, and not in a different bed, perhaps alone. The warm bed is enough. More than enough. But sometimes you’ll wake up next to a person you care about and maybe that person is still sleeping. I just kind of take a moment to let gratitude envelope me– and, for a small part of space-time, I’m comforted by pure amazement.
The sun rose, lit the sky on fire and awakened my heart. Charlottesville was a nice, vintage looking town. I arrived in town with the intention of finding a homeless shelter to shower in. I found it, but chickened out in the end. I’m glad though. Not sure how smart that would have been– 20 y/o girl in a building with several homeless men. Also glad because I learned how to endure feeling “dirty.” Four days without a shower felt disgusting. But I conditioned myself to stop thinking about it, believing I looked OK without. The biggest problem, surprisingly, was my feet sweating and my socks stinking.
I should mention the girl I chatted with on the train out of Atlanta. Thirty-six y/o mother of two. Single mother of two. We talked about our lives, mostly about her, and I’m glad. I love learning about people. I love experiencing that circumspect feeling of knowing what others go through. Simple facts, simple conditions of her life help illuminate and redefine my own life. She was pregnant in high school with her son. The father was seemingly non-existent: in and out of jail, incapable of providing even his presence. Her kids don’t see or talk to him 18 years later. I told her about my trip and she said she admired me, told me she would love to mirror my decision if she was without children. She made me laugh and I made her laugh too. Our lives, running independent of one another, had collided on a train at 3 o’clock in the morning. When she left at 5:30 a.m, she left me sitting there and I was a different person at 5:31, alone with my thoughts. Each person I meet offers an opportunity to look at my life from an angle previously unrecognizable. What is more enriching than that?