Before the snow fell I was chased by a crazy man, an accomplishment of which none of us should be proud, but we tell our tales of survival, words adhering to our clothing like red, blue, green and purple badges of courage.
Before the snow fell I was chased and chastised by a truly insane man in a yuppie part of the city. When I first saw him, he was talking to the bench, and seemed harmless and dirty. Then screamed at me for not saying good morning to him. I was cold and my coffee had been served to me lukewarm, and my chest burned and pinched with fear. He followed me, aggressive and unstable. I ran, surprised tears mixing with high-pitched laughter all falling down my face. Once in the bourgeois haven of my yoga studio, I tried to unclench. Instead, I remembered the angry, impassioned words: “I’m fucking talking to you. Don’t walk away from me. Didn’t you hear me? Didn’t you?” and I kept shaking, dabbing at a damp spot on my leggings from slush spray and dirty water. The moments had passed more quickly and more slowly than time moved for me for weeks, and I felt like Rip Van Winkle in a crowd of babies.
On the night the snow fell we all rushed out of work early, scared and excited at the prospect of routine operations screeching to a halt. We feared the worst, and stocked our refrigerators with kale, because that’s what New Yorkers do. We bought beer and wine and whiskey, imagining long, cozy afternoons, with snow howling outside and warm, firey embrace inside. We were quieter on the subways than usual because we all did fear that something bad was going to happen, forgetting we all lived in the biggest city in the world and not on the prairies. We liked the drama, because whether or not we stand under glittering lights, here in New York we all perform our monologues for other people and take on the roles that will garner us a standing ovation and, if we’re lucky, a red rose or two, because there’s nothing more precious than watching a cut flower age, petals dropping as its sweet perfume turns musty and old. Those flowers are real, and few of us can experience them for ourselves.
As the snow started to fall, I minded the slush, bought another bottle of wine and weighed my budget; heading to the bar on a “school night” to find room and chat with a select group of brave souls was more appealing than more kale. I craved the certain warmth that comes from a near empty bar where, independent from the amount of alcohol consumed, patrons band together. We watch one another fade with fatigue, and inhaled the musty smell of stale beer that never leaves any bar and feels both comforting and nauseating. That evening, the wind blew and I laughed and sipped wine and welcomed the prospect of working at home. Later, I looked outside to gauge the weather. The snow had stopped but the winds were gusty, and I saw the piles begin to form in the eerily empty streets, always full of cars and noise and footsteps and cigarettes. I thought of him. Was he warm tonight? Did he know where to go to keep warm? Did someone feed him? Was he going to be okay that the subways were closing and he didn’t even have this form of a mobile home in which to take refuge?
I left the bar, turned up my collar and set out for my house, slipping, sliding and feeling the odd snowflake sting my eyes. I saw a huddled bundle right under the subway stairs, and while my chest clenched, I was compelled to take a look. I walked over. It was a pile of garbage. I sighed, looked up at the grey-orange sky unnaturally lit by too many streetlights and picked my way carefully home.
Miriam Lamey is a Pittsburgh-based writer and yoga teacher. She strives to be open and attentive to the everyday, using life’s beauty and tragedy as inspiration for her writing and yoga practice. She’s an avid Ashtanga practitioner and teacher, also partial to a great new album, excellent bottle of wine, a good Manhattan, and attentively-cooked meal. Follow her on Twitter @mirseven and on Instagram. Read more on her blog at www.miriamlamey.com.