I’ve only been living in New York since sometime in October, but one thing I noticed from the beginning is how anonymous the city feels. I could be walking down the street and a van could roll up and men in black could pile out and throw me in the back, and it feels like no one would care, or say anything. They’re filming a movie, they might think.
On the subway a group of youths could be breakdancing and the old lady with the Kindle won’t blink when his shoe swings past her nose at one hundred miles an hour.
But with the anonymity comes personal connections that happen in the blink of an eye.
Sometimes it’s just a shared experience. The man wearing the fingerless leather gloves smiles and shrugs at the old lady with the Kindle across from him, and she smiles back and rolls her eyes at the kids who are doing goddamn backflips on a moving train.
Last night I opened my window because my apartment was a box of dry hot air. The springs in the frame rattled like a nest of . . . rattlesnakes. On the street below stood a blond bearded man next to the passenger door of a boxy Japanese car. On the driver side stood a girl, maybe his girlfriend.
The springs rattled, perhaps startling them.
“HAALOOOOOOOOOO,” he called up to my general direction, his voice echoing in the brick canyon. It was dark, and he was probably drunk, and the fire escape partially blocked me from view. He was wearing one of those old man hats.
“HAALOOOOOOOOOO,” I replied, immediately, just as loud.
He started laughing and said, “Thank you for that. You’re awesome.” Now I knew he was drunk.
“Have a good night,” I said. “Stay safe.”
They got in their car and left. I smiled. It was nice talking to him. It was the only place that could have happened. If we were on the subway, the only way we’d make eye contact was to see who wanted the open seat more, and even then it would be fleeting and anonymous.