Thursday, April 2, 2009

200 Steps

The underground transfer between the L Train and the 123 Trains is approximately 200 steps. I made the mistake of counting one day as a means to pass the time during my every morning commute. Now those steps are all I can think about.  Every morning I'm plagued with the thought of how I am going to spend those 200 steps.

"How today will I spend these steps?  What will occupy my time? What will I think about? What will I ignore? Will I pay attention to my walking, every step and beat of the way, or will I reach the end without even realizing what all I have traversed?"

There is no skipping them.  No fast forwarding.  They are an every morning constant and those steps never become more or less than what they are: 200 in total.

To take my mind off the 1 to 200 count I've created games that I play with an unknowing public. I'll jump off the train in haste and clamor up the steps before anyone else.  My game is to remain the first person up the stairs and to remain the leader of the pack from all who have just gotten off the L Train and are making the same underground transfer to the 123.  Other times I'll give someone I've spotted a lengthy head start and try to catch up with them, if not beat them all together, before the 200 steps are out.  

Then there are those days when I put my body on auto-pilot and let my mind dream wildly.  I'll find myself in the heart of a zombie Apocalypse, dodging those who have been recently infected and walk briskly to my desperate point of escape.  Other times I walk past the advertisements, roll my eyes and cringe at the world around me.  Often, I'll take in the graffiti, wonder about who left it there and why it tickles me so to see a moustache painted over a sickeningly thin female model or the words "I smile because I'm complacent" written over Scarlett Johansson's face on the He's Just Not that Into You movie poster.   I'll dream about the movies I want to make (but never will,) the books I want to write (but won't get to,) the blogs I want to post (but I have work!) the world I want to save (but why?)  When the 200 steps expire, these thoughts will become ghosts.  There one moment - gone the next.

There are the mornings when I study people.  The way they walk, the swagger in their step, the shoes they decide to wear.  How women can spend lifetimes walking in high heels and how people regard or disregard the man selling poetry and the youth strumming his guitar.  I'll half cruise the men walking against me.  Men wearing suits or dirty jeans and work boots.  There are those who still carry lunch boxes, possibly still sitting on steel beams, overlooking an ever expanding city and there are those still carrying briefcases - what these days cannot fit on an iphone, I don't know - yet the briefcase remains in hand, a trench coat flowing behind them.

I have teased myself with the thought of counting the number of fluorescent lights or the number of lightly tainted, now off-white tiles but it all seems too much.  200 steps in addition to an umpteen number of fluorescent lights and the ungodly amount of tiles stretching across the transfer is overwhelming enough, let alone knowing the count.

In 200 days I will have left a younger version of myself behind for every step of the way. So strong these evaporating thoughts, my younger self. Five steps now. 

Ten and I'm ancient.