The Tourist Prevails
Take step, ouch. Take step, ouch. Step, ouch. Step, ouch.
"Go around, nothing to see here!"
"Ugh," an older woman scoffs at me as she bypasses me down the stairs, giving me whiplash with how fast she's moving in comparison to me.
"What do you want from me ma'am?!" I want to scream. Instead I bare my teeth and internally groan, OUCH.
It's the close of my third week on my own in New York and from all the running, walking, climbing, and overall exercise I've been forcing upon myself (you don't need to take a cab, it's only forty blocks. Just walk!), my body is falling apart.
Okay, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but between the severe runner's knee, the blisters on my feet, and the soreness in my shoulders from lugging what must have been one thousand pounds of groceries up thirty blocks, I can barely clear the subway staircase in less than thirty minutes. It's character building if anything, right?
I moan as a few more people shove past me, making sure to shoot me angry looks as they do so, as if I have any say in the matter. The words "Just rest for a few days" echo in my mind. I've never been one to follow directions.
I shove my way through the turn style and half-jog, half-limp my way to the E Train which thankfully hasn't left the station yet. I feel so triumphant. I must look like the Hunchback of Notre Dame.
I leap through the doors, sort of expecting them to close right behind me dramatically. They stay open, which is rather anticlimactic. I make my way through the train, looking for an empty seat. Weekends are crazy on the subway and I've yet to find a seat on a train today. Luckily, some big lug with a heavy Queens accent instructs the kid next to him to scoot over so I can sit down. "Right here, sweetheart," he calls to me, hoping to be my knight in shining armor. I allow it.
"Thank you," I gush appreciatively, settling into my seat and allowing my eyes to wander. A mini panic goes through me; I usually take the C train instead of the E, but on the weekends the C doesn't run in the same direction. I'm hoping the E will take me to my stop, but too tired to get up and figure it out. "Do you know if this train goes to Washington Square?" I desperately murmur to my lug, not really sure I'll get up and leave if he says no. Maybe I could just go to Queens. Hang out with this guy and his family. I bet he has cute kids.
"I don't think so," he returns, furrowing his brow. "Hey, Joe," he calls to his friend. His friend turns to face us; he can't possibly be less than 250 pounds of pure muscle and bulk and his face resembles granite.
"Does this train go to Washington Square?"
"No, it goes to Queens," Joe answers.
I'm thinking to myself, Yes sir, I'm aware. I'm going to get off before it gets to Queens. Instead I just nod and say, "Okay, thank you." Although these men have clearly lived here their entire lives and I've been here exactly three weeks, I know I'm right. That kind of comes with the territory of my genes.
The two men stare at me, probably confused that I haven't jumped up and run out of the train in a panic. I settle into my seat, closing my eyes and waiting for the train to start up. It's going to Washington Square. And if it doesn't, I get off somewhere else.
I crack an eye open to glance at the kid sitting next to me. He's about my age, maybe a year or so younger, dressed in workout gear and stabilizing a Whole Foods bag between his feet while he messes around on his phone.
He's staring at a photo of a really cute guy holding a cake and smiling. The guy in the picture looks familiar; sure enough, I glance up at the real life boy sitting next to me--it's him. He's staring at a picture of himself.
I keep watching him, kind of intrigued by how long he's been staring at this picture. It's been like five minutes, I think to myself incredulously, glancing around to see if anyone else has noticed, but I am the only one with a view of his phone. I continue watching; there's nothing better to do when you're waiting for the train to start moving.
He zooms in on his face, using an app to remove the red eye. This doesn't really phase me; it's a pretty common thing to do to a photo of yourself. However, then he zooms in on his teeth. He begins to use the app to whiten his teeth, redden his gums. He moves his fingers over his face, brushing over blemishes and darkening the line of his eyebrows.
At this point, I'm practically hysterical. I am about to burst with laughter. Others on the train stare at me like I'm insane. Little do they know what my new friend is up to.
I remove my phone to stealthily take a picture of him, just to prove that you can't make this stuff up. He's so encapsulated by his own face that he doesn't even notice. Every once in a while he glances up and around to make sure no one can see what he's up to. Every time he glances up, I pretend to be asleep.
It gets better. The boy zooms in on his armpits. In the photo he's wearing gray, and we all know how unkind that can be to pit stains. There's a slight darkness where his armpits are in the photo. This is what kills me--this is where I CAN'T STOP LAUGHING. He uses the app to brush over his armpits, removing the pit stains.
How can we trust anyone after this? How can anyone's social media profiles be credible anymore? I will never look at a photograph the same again.
Finally, the cherry on top, the BEST thing I've seen all day, the boy moves the photo into a folder he's titled, "Ready for Insta." As in, Instagram. As in, he does this to every photo he takes of himself and then moves it into a folder ready to post to social media. This is a man with a plan. I bet if he put this much effort into just about anything else, he'd be a billionaire. An entrepreneurial genius. A god damn savant.
By now the train is moving; I'm too giddy from this hilarious display to really even notice. "Next stop, Washington Square," the conductor blares over the speaker. This brings me back to reality.
I whip my head back to the lug on my other side with a crazed excitement in my big brown eyes. "Hey, did you hear that? I told you it went to Washington Square!" I'm practically salivating, I'm so excited. I don't really know why, but I am.
"Oh, yeah," he says, smiling at me. "Hey Joe, it does go to Washington Square." Joe simply nods; also quite anticlimactic, but I don't really care. The tourist knew more than the locals, and she's ecstatic about it.
"I'm glad you didn't get off," the lug grins, leaning into me so close that our noses almost touch. Time to get out.
"Yup, thanks!" I exclaim, backing away sharply and smiling at him like, Yeah right, dude. "See you!" I call as I leap up and rush out the subway doors. I'm practically skipping down the platform, runner's knee be damned.
I'd imagine he called something like, "Take care, sweetheart!" after me, but I'm already gone.
Part of me wonders how long the young boy stayed on that E train, completely oblivious to his surroundings and completely absorbed by his own cute little face.