by Nathaniel S. Soria
Today I decided to sit at the end of the subway, in hopes that being at the end of the 3 line, at the end of Brooklyn, by the end of New York (also known as East New York), no one would bother me. That I could spend the first day of my New Year in complete solitude, devoid of any human contact. What an impossible desire to have here in New York City.
At the next stop, the cart came to life with various sorts, including a man who walked in through my side, through my door, with slightly tattered pants of a navy blue, a slender black coat, and a worn backpack with leather trimming that had spots of unraveled discolored fibers. Despite the age of his wears, they were well kept, ironed neatly, and worn without any disdain. As the cart began to move he spoke with bravado to all, “Well here we are, a new day for the new year.”
Immediately my mind started to guard my wallet. Sure, a new day to a new year, with only a few dollars left in my pocket and I wasn’t about to start my new day by giving what’s left to a total stranger.
“As me and my friends sat around yesterday, we wondered, ‘will tomorrow truly be a new day? Will we actually be willing to change?’ Let me tell you something, if we really want change, then we need to get off our lazy asses and do something about it.”
As he stood there I looked up, and from where I sat I couldn’t make out his face, but his voice rang clearly. A good book sat on my thigh, waiting to be read, but I couldn’t stop listening to every word that came out of his mouth; some in stutters, and some not as brave as others, but all clear enough.
“The world didn’t end. Why do we want the world to end? We’ve got so much to do, so much still to work on. We need to get off our lazy asses and start changing things. Maybe the world will end when we’re done dying. We are the world. We are what needs to change.”
One other listener, with his girlfriend’s leg stretched over his, decided to raise his hand, as if a student in a teacher’s classroom. Immediately I shot the passenger a disapproving glance, but it wasn’t caught. His girlfriend tried to stop him as well, but before she could, the stranger said, “It’s fine, ask your question. Ask anything you like.”
I couldn’t hear what the other listener asked, it probably wasn’t my place to know, but the speaker did, and without a hint of irritation he answered him boldly with a glimmer of love, “Well then, that’s only one person, there are still many more left.” For a moment I tried to guess what the question was, but as soon as I tried the doors opened for the next stop and as the speaker exited he repeated some of what he said earlier then turned back. As he turned I finally caught a glance at his face. I grew jealous of his courage as soon as I saw he was a man no older than I. I was jealous of his bold voice.
Unable to put my headphones on, I thought of how many times God spoke to me in this previous year and many years before. Not through some fantastic burning bush of some sort, but through people, some familiar and others ghostly. Although, many of their words were forgotten and were unheeded. Why? I recalled, right before I got on that train I saw a commercial for a zombie movie that’s soon to release, then I thought of all my friends who half-heartedly joked about the coming “Zombie Apocalypse” in hopes that it might happen. Why are we so fascinated by “The End”?
I sat there, at the end of the train, at the end of the 3 line, at the end of my world, and realized I too wanted it to end; the monotony of life. I wanted the excitement of a final battle. I wanted a blaze of glory finale, even at the cost of the world. But, presently, I was unwilling to pay for my own adventure at the cost of my own comfort. I was unwilling to awaken from my daily sitcom induced slumbers and ravenous desires for a next meal. I was unwilling to sacrifice my pride in hopes to do something great. I lacked the humility and perseverance it takes to work on myself and my dreams. Einstein’s humble words came to mind, “A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving.”
Once I exited at Burrough Hall, I passed by a series of shops closed for the Holiday, the city was more empty than I was used to. As I walked my steps were the only steps I could hear on the cold cement sidewalk. It was there I realized the stranger was right, my pride was shattered, and his simple words heeded. I have much to do in my own life, projects left on the shelves collecting dust, and it’s about time I got off my “lazy ass” and finished them. The hopes of a monumental end was a distraction from my own monumental achievements. Within my lifetime or passed it, I hope I at least do one great thing in my life worth remembering. The bold stranger’s words proved to be more valuable than any dollar I greedily held onto in my pocket.
by Nathaniel S. Soria