Often, I see people crying on the subway, either in the train or on the platform. I always try to make eye contact, though I am rarely successful. They don’t so much look away as they are always looking down, or nowhere, out into space, running the film in their heads over and again. I want to see their movies—take a seat in their theater of one, become two, and watch with an empathetic eye. Nothing could be so wrong as to elicit tears while waiting for the Q, one might assume, but you never know what’s playing in a theater near you, either beneath a Yankee hat pulled down or behind smeary makeup with red eyes glued to the dead iPhone, no cellular signals to boost life or bring relief to its user.
When they cry, I want to cry—I never do, though I’ve gotten close. Some red eye, maybe, a wayward sniffle because of dust, not sympathy, if asked. Whatever the disturbance, I wish to fix its isolating torpor inflicted upon the host. Brooklyn glitters at night and if I could I’d point to the glory hoping the sight dislodges the block but it never works. It’s hard to see through blurred eyes, and we get off at random. The other day, on the R, I stared at the official NYC subway map—the work of art—and tried to guess how many subway stations I’ve visited in four years. I couldn’t guess; I assumed I visited the same twenty stations 10,000 times each, which feels right, and at each one, I’ve seen someone crying, but not all the time.
There’s no shame in crying on the subway, by the way; no better place for one to express their emotions exists in the city; derelicts and madmen and preachers feel it is their right to turn the public subway space into a pulpit, soapbox, or padded room, so why not a dirge for the brokenhearted and the broken? Crying in public is embarrassing if, like me, you’re so conscious of yourself and your surroundings at most times that a disturbance to the general social calm, such as an emotional response to some kind of pain or distress, is excruciatingly humiliating or at least inconvenient. Otherwise, you are normal, and disregard the world when you’re in pain and, rationally, you soothe yourself. Tears help when there’s nothing left to grip. I discount tears from laughter because only freaks get down like that; I can’t speak on the lifestyle of the achingly pleased.
Meanwhile, summer has died so there will be an influx of tears, I gather. Fall and winter are my writing seasons, it seems, so some farewells are due, but until then should we cry, let’s do it for reasons better the departure. I don’t trust people who say they haven’t cried in such a long time, ignore the length, not because I think they’re liars but because I’m inclined to believe them, forcing me to consider them wired to explode at the slightest provocation. Drinks should be avoided, but make a beeline to the subway where, depending on the setting, treatment to the suppression can be administered. The Brooklyn Bridge is a heartbreaker with falling snow sparkling by the night lights and if this doesn’t make you cry, then I don’t know what…