One of the things I love (and hate) about this city is how easy it is to slip into the invisibility mindset. It's a city of loners, a loosely-held constellation. I love that at lunch I can wander up to Bryant Park and march straight into the center of the park, sit, and not even pretend to read my book while I watch everyone else do the same thing, most of them also alone. This is a big part of what makes me feel like this is home, finally. No one is watching me.
But it's actually all a bit of a smokescreen. I start to think that I really am invisible, that the cultivated aloofness of everyone means that they can't actually see me. And sometimes I retreat too far, and it gets to me.
On Saturday I woke up very early, to the sound of the street being cleared by the cops and street-cleaning machines. So I said fine, okay, I'll just get up. And, as my street is wont to do, it kept getting louder, until there was actually a full-blown parade setting up outside. Drums, horns, feathers, families. So I said fine, you want me to go outside? Fine. I'll go outside. I had errands to run anyway. And lo, there was an actual parade setting up, for what celebration, I'm still not sure. I didn't follow it. I snapped a few pictures and went on my way.
When I get too hermit-ish, this is really all it takes - a nice walk, and whatever internal cobwebs I've accumulated air themselves out and I can breathe easy again. Today, I had to to this all over again, drag myself out in the rain for a run, even though I had a headache, I was a little nauseated, and just didn't feel like it. But I gathered myself up and started running toward the park. It's all uphill between my house and the park, so by the time I get there, and my actual run begins, I'm already close to that mental wall. You know the one - it's mean, like a middle-school girl.
And just exactly then, I passed a little Indian man in a blue sweater vest. He must have been about 65, and as I approached, I noticed him making some kind of hand gesture at me - he was pumping his fist in the air, like you might do if you were watching a sporting event. And then I realized he was doing this for my benefit. He had this small smile on his face, like he could see my little internal battle all over my face, and though I needed some encouragement. Just as I passed him, he said, "This is good exercise!"
So it is. All of it.