The Collective

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The Collective

I got onto the 2 train this afternoon and found the perfect spot on the corner of the train to lean and play bejeweled on my treo. It’s my perfect way of tuning everyone out and keeping my mind from being busy on things I can’t control like the dirtiness of the train or the people in it and how much I wish that i was in my car. Into my second round, I noticed unusual movement in my periphery above my treo… The woman sitting in the seat in front of me was jerking unusually. When I focused in on her, she was sobbing. Heaving. Crying. All quietly, but noticeable to me. I stared at her for a while… empathizing from afar… all of 3 feet away. I remember that. Feeling so much that you couldn’t wait to be in the confines of your own space. In the comfort of loved ones or just plain old solitude. The emotion was coming out RIGHT then… and there was little or nothing you could do to stop it. The best you could expect is to hide it… or keep it from being too noticeable. She was hugging the the far wall of the train and using her hair as a barrier to hide her tears. But it wasn’t working. The emotions were deepening the feeling behind each sob… where she became slightly audible between the gasps for breath and the sniffling to keep from falling apart.

I stood there conflicted. What could I do? I had no tissues in my bag – so I couldn’t offer her a tissue as comfort. I could offer her a word of encouragement… “It’s going to get better…” but … what do I know about her situation and how she feels about it? Someone may have died; gone missing; she may have found her lover in a compromising position; she may have gotten some horrible news about her own life. It could have been small too… not gotten the promotion; didn’t get picked on the RFP she submitted… But still… what did I know – to be telling her it would get better. Okay… that’s a wrap. Plus it’s New York. She could be crazy. She might cuss me out… damnit… then I’d have to fight, for no reason. She might not speak english… so what I say to her might come off as gibberish. Who knows the outcome? Now I was afraid to put myself out there on a limb… just to let her know… that her pain is being felt… and that… someway, somewhere down the line… everyday won’t be like today and there will be ones that are the polar opposite where she wouldn’t be able to control the laughter that was waiting to burst forth. Or the joy… and that I know because I’ve been there.

But I stood there… All these thoughts running through my mind… keeping an eye on her… watching to see if anyone else around her is keeping an eye on her and all the while trying to line up the rubies and the diamonds and the pearls. But everyone seemed to be in their own little world pretty much. And then I was overcome by another thought. Where is our hive mentality? That collective that when we see another human hurting… a piece of us goes out to them? It makes me think that the millions they spend on those ads for children in third world countries with flies all over them and their enlarged bellies sitting in sewage are wasted on the new collective which seem to only care about themselves and their immediate families and surroundings. Does it only make an appearance during something insurmountable like 9/11 or blackouts of the North East corridor? It can’t be something small like… a crying woman on the train surrounded by perfectly NOT crying people?

Just then, another lady sat in the space next to her and offered “Would you like a tissue… I have one if you need it…” The sobbing woman thanked her but said “no”. The offering woman said “okay” and continued to sit next to her until she got off at the next stop. The sobbing woman got it under control a little bit more… but still visibly upset. She looked like she was beginning to put herself together to get off the train. She started to look up and around and come back into the real world. She looked up at me… and said “Wanna sit down? I’m getting out.” Here’s my chance, I thought. “No… that’s fine… but… I really hope, whatever it is… you feel better.” She looked at me and smiled and said, “Thank you.” She made her way off the train and that was it. I really meant it. I don’t know who she was or what was wrong. But… everyone deserves to feel good…

It lends to the health of the collective soul.

I’m getting there…



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