If this hour — or weather — were to happen back in LA-LA, I would be the only pedestrian seen for miles.
Well, at least I started off — as a pedestrian. Having left my dear college comrade hibernating in the cocoon of her comforters inside the generously heated West Village apartment, I stepped out into the frosty morning with that blissful gratitude that came from knowing I had nowhere else to be: Nowhere but here, in this City that left no human heart unaffected. Because how ever New York — the Strange Iron and Steel Beauty — came off to others, indifference was never among Her effects.
That morning, I quickly understood: In this City, I was in the minority. Time moved relentlessly quicker for all others; and in my aimless, fancy free wandering, I belonged to neither the tourists nor the exhausted locals, who made it a point to survive Her every day.
The street sweeper, who was swinging his broom with enough intention to cause a flurry of broken black ice against my ankles and smoking simultaneously, gave me a queer eye, from underneath his Russian fur hat. I had just passed him and made the mistake of smiling.
“Where is your coat, girl?” he growled in response, then puffed a visible cloud of nicotine in my face. Yep, he was Russian alright, and not in the least bit entertained by my getup of a single turtleneck, a little red hat and thin running shoes, with funkily striped ankle socks peaking out of them.
“Can’t run in a coat,” I gleefully shrugged. I was grinning.
Since when did I become so bouncy? Back in the days of my aspiring to be a hardcore New Yorker, this Amelie character I was currently channeling would annoy the shit out of me. But there I was: Having gotten older, I had managed to also get lighter. And if there were a single chronic mood of my soul — it would be its certain predisposition for gratitude.
To get my point across to the Russian, I began jogging lightly. Right foot, left foot… Ouch! Ouch! I hadn’t realized that my feet had gotten frozen in a matter of minutes of my being outside. Stepping on my toes, as if leaping over tiny puddles, was my new running technique acquired back in Cali. There, healthy living was merely a science; and I had actually studied it, not for the sake of getting off with others, at juice bars of some fancy, celebrity-ridden gyms of Hollywood — but for the sake of healing.
Fuck! I didn’t even know I needed it, to tell you the truth, until I finally settled down into the natural flow of the local time, so different from New York’s. It didn’t gnaw on my nerves and upset my inners. Nah. LA-LA had its own stresses and costs to the system, but at least there would be much more time — and space — to be a Self.
“‘Scuse me,” I sang out. I made sure to smile.
(Seriously: Who WAS that girl?!)
The bundled-up old woman, dragging her comatose Yorkie through the snow buried flowerbeds, looked back at me. A thought had no time to form in my head before she granted me the dirties elevator look since the one I earned from a Kardashian lookalike, on my first Hollywood attempt to go clubbing. (That young one assumed I was rubbing up against her man: A short and hairy creature in rhinestoned jeans buying her girlfriends a round of pink drinks. I, however, soaked from dancing my ass off next to the Go-Go Girls, was just leaning over the bar to ask for some water: A request hated by the bartenders all around the world (but hated a little less than when I requested a cup of coffee).)
Upon my “‘Scuse me?”, not even a centimeter did the old woman move over. Here, time and space had to be fought for; and considering she had to, most likely, persevere through mortal hell in order to own her rent-controlled apartment in Washington Square — the woman was highly unlikely to budge for my sake.
By that point, I could feel neither my toes nor my hands. Still, it would take a lot more than a couple of dirty or simply baffled looks from the locals to snap me out of my grateful mood.
“Just look at this, would you?!” I kept thinking.
The perfectly aligned, naked and black with wetness trees were covered with sticky snow. The skies were arguing with its fluffy clouds on whether to grant us some sun or snow that day. The skeletons of Christmas trees littered an occasional side of the road, but the smell of trash and sewers had been put on hold until the next warmer front.
Left foot, right foot… Right: Ouch! ouch! The black asphalt underneath my feet was sparkling with shards of ice. Leaping over the tiny puddles and seemingly fallen down stars, off I went: Navigating the seemingly different City unlike my former self claimed would have done.
But which one of us had changed more?
My every rhythmical exhale resulted in a visible cloud. I was hardly the only pedestrian, but definitely the only runner seen for miles. It was my new way of exploring new lands: Right foot, then left. Flying. Slowing down only to zigzag in between the baffled, sleepy or plain disgruntled locals.
Right, left. Right…
Yes: Definitely grateful!