Every morning, I descend down this long escalator to the metro:
Inscribed on the stone wall all around the metro's entrance is a quote by Walt Whitman. I have no idea why this particular quote was chosen but it is:
Thus in silence in dreams' projections,
Returning, resuming, I thread my way through the hospitals;
The hurt and wounded I pacify with soothing hand,
I sit by the restless all dark night - some are so young;
Some suffer so much - I recall the experience sweet and sad...
-Walt Whitman, from Leaves of Grass, 1876
We are all so disconnected here. I rode the metro today with a coworker of mine standing right in front of me the entire ride. He never looked at me, because we don't meet eyes around here. I cram on the train with my arm tucked around someone's waist so I can reach a pole to steady myself on. My back presses against someone else and we all collectively suck in our breath so we can make sure the doors close and train moves. I hurl through the darkness clutching strangers for balance, and the whole time, we never speak, never look at each other. Its as if we aren't there at all. Ghosts. For me, usually, it's the only time I'm touched all day unless I see someone after work.
As we reached our stop, I reached out and touched my coworkers arm and he jerked it back and turned to me with a glare before realizing it was me. Our defenses are so up, all the time. Don't look at this homeless person, don't look at this person who looks sad, don't even think about looking at someone asking you for money. We drift and it strikes me sometimes how god-awful lonely we all look.
We break apart as the train emptys, our morning embraces forgotten, shaken off and in the haste of the day we separate -never knowing anyone, never speaking, never looking. The pattern repeats in the afternoon, and I ascend the same escalator and trudge up with my footsteps echoing and my ipod clutched in my hand and I'm thinking of how we're going to keep people on Medicaid, and how we're going to get through these lawsuits, and how I'm going to get through the next few months. About how god-awful lonely I am most of the time, and how I am both luckier than hell and sad at the same damn time. And I look at the quote which I know will remind me always of my time spent here, now, in Dupont Circle as my twenties wind down and the rest of my life winds up.
I'll recall the experience sweet and sad.