Would you rather be the river or the rock?
The question came to me as I propped my camera on the balcony of Grand Central Terminal in NYC and set a slow shutter speed. The ensuing photo showed only the people standing. Those walking were ghosted trails. Mere smears. Currents that ran around the solid forms, like water around stones.
My new life makes me feel like I’m one of those currents. Leaving and coming home then leaving again, I live in a rhythm that doesn’t work with the solid, stolid life of a small town. I’m out of synch. I only materialize when I slow down.
Slowing down is what being benched is all about.
But, surprisingly, finding a bench in Grand Central is not so easy. Apparently, they don’t want to encourage people to sit, though people do resign themselves to the floor.
I decided against the official waiting room, where the benches seemed like a punishment for those unlucky travelers who had somehow screwed up their train schedule. That left only the subterranean eating area for me.
Downstairs, I sat down in the middle of a long bench to eat my food. Around me people ate their dinners quietly, with the exception of a young Asian woman, sitting bolt-upright next to me against the hard bench. She was having aloud conversation with someone, apparently invisible.
I realized, as I often do in airports, that she must have been using a Bluetooth with her phone. Her friend on the other end seemed to be a patient listener, for she endured the woman’s fast-flowing stream of emotion. Each sentence seemed like a verbal punch. At one point, I heard her say, “I can see right through them. But they can’t see me!”
It made me think of the ghost trails upstairs.
I glanced over at her again. That’s when I realized that I was wrong. She didn’t have a blue tooth. She was a very solitary rock in her own stream of spoken thoughts.
Just then, a little face appeared right beside mine. A boy, about five years old, had climbed the back of the bench from his side as his parents called after him. I couldn’t resist – I hastily scribbled a drawing of a dog and handed it to him. He tumbled back down his side and showed it to his parents and siblings. I now had four faces peering over, asking for drawings. The oldest was too busy eating a hot dog to care.
My interaction with the family – Hasidic Jews on a day’s vacation into Manhattan – made me realize that my art is indeed an anchor for me. I won’t be able to change the nature of my schedule. But I can become a little less elusive by using my creativity to connect to people.
Just like I’m doing right now.