The lurch of the subway that followed closely after the full stop sent the sleeping child straight into my lap.
He did not move. He did not stir.
I looked around for a parent to step forward and scoop the child up in their arms, apologizing profusely as they moved the Sleeping One to the other side of the subway car.
No one stepped forward.
Three subways stops went by.
On any other day I am certain I would have reached the panic-stricken stage after three or four stops, wondering how I could possibly parent an abandoned subway child. But today I was tired. I was worn. And so I let the child sleep in my lap and I did not worry. I closed my eyes and I let the slow, steady movement of the subway lull my breathing into a synchronized rhythm with his.
And it felt good to be holding, stranger or not. It felt good to be held by you. And for a short fix of time ,he and I were just two children sleeping in your arms, cradled by your transit line. Pacified by your Watchful Eye.
Oh Big City, I was mad at you for a moment or two. I will be the bigger one and just go on and admit it.
“She’s a lonely city,” a friend said about you from across the table the other night. We were talking behind your back, I will just admit it now. And I smiled at the sentiment. To be very honest, I agreed with my friend. I didn’t even hesitate before I blurted out an answer that echoed in agreement.
And I was that close to saying it straight to your face, that some days I want to call you a lonely, cold, relentless city.
But just when I am about ready to do that, throw up my hands and surrender to a suburb, you take me back. You forgive my misconceptions and you show me just how capable you are of being a mother to me. You took a girl who is terribly homesick for her own mother and showed her, with great poise & grace, just how wonderfully you have mastered the Hold of all your people.
So I have been wrong. I judged you. I am a judger, it’s my personality makeup. A jumble of multiple choice questions pointed out to me in a scientific manner that I am prone to judging. And I took you, took one glance at the experience I was having with you, and I chalked you up to the concrete jungle that everyone assigns to you with such haste. I have yet to meet the Mother Who Loves Her Children With Concrete especially when She Can Love Them Better with Breathtaking City Sunsets & Brilliant City Sunrises.
I buried you in my own misconceptions and resisted your coaxing me to just come rest in your arms for a little while. To put down the papers and domino chain of emails, each begging for a response, to come sit with you for a while and have you point out to me all the wonders of the people you have raised and the buildings you have raised up.
How did I not see it before? You are not loud, even though your people sometime are. You are not overwhelming, but your businesses are. You are not intimidating even if the company you keep just so happens to be. None of this concerns you.
You are more concerned with what matters in this lifetime and for that we are quick to think you are shallow, swallowing people whole with a Bait of Salaries & Spotlights. It could not be farther from the truth. You are more occupied with the task of watching over your Five Boroughs and all of their people: Manhattan, your oldest, Queens, the quiet one, the Bronx & Brooklyn, and Staten Island, your baby.
You are more concerned with welcoming in anyone who cries to come here, to see the ways in which the Broadway stage will sing to them or Central Park will stroll with them.
You are the careful caretaker to an army of Tall Buildings, and though you once wished they would grow to be NBA stars, they have done pretty well in their spots. They have delivered a great deal of goodness to a thousand businesses and a million business men and women.
Oh Big City of mine, It took a long, relentless day followed by a chilling but silent night to realize that you have only wanted to be an over-sized sweater to me, a place for me to fall into and find overwhelming comfort in letting you be some sort of “home” to me.
I have long labeled you as a heart breaker. You broke my heart when you made me leave, you broke my heart when you let me stay. But you healed my heart in my stepping away from trying to hold everything that you hold in my own arms—the success, the prestige, the titles—and finally surrendering to the fold of your arms. The soft features in your Face. The soft sounds in your Voice; the ones that do exist beneath a storm of Car Horns & Sirens. “Take solace in me you,” you said.
I heard you.
“Take solace in me,” you whispered with the hint of a tune tied to the words.
My City. My Over-Sized Sweater Made From an Intricate Weaving of Ten Thousand Happenings in a Single Second. Singing Me a Lullaby, Rocking Me To and Fro on Your Transit Line that Cradles One Thousand Souls in One Single Sitting.