I’ve become somewhat of a subway voyeur. My train arrives only carrying a handful of passengers before my stop and as we travel deeper into the heart of Manhattan, it gradually fills with bodies and faces that seem familiar enough even though I know I’ve never seen them before.
There is the old man with salt and pepper hair, just one level up from the look George Clooney owns. Reading his paper he crosses one leg over the other, leaving an ankle covered with a thick black sock and tennis shows that have never seen a court since they were first purchased. People like him usually keep their eyes on their reading material, even if it is a local daily with more conspiracies than news.
He knows just as the brother with the studio style headphones and the young girl who still uses gel to tame her edges, that looking around, making eye contact is not part of the code. And so we all go on about our day, looking down, reading with our eyes glazed or staring out the window at the pipes that line the tunnels and our own reflection against the dark sides.
This morning, I started thinking about the ways we all can carry that code into our daily lives. How we can step from behind the platforms, up the stairs and into the world keeping our eyes down. And it’s not as if it’s a big city code, many folks in the smallest of towns, keep their eyes down throughout their day without ever realizing.
On the reverse part of the commute, when I am finally nearing home, I often catch the people around me doing what seems a reflex at the end of a long day. Walking up the steps into their more private evenings, they’ll turn their heads further up, just an inch and look up. And it doesn’t seem to glare back even though it’s blinding. It’s like for the first moments all day, we’re all just finally taking everything in.
Forget seeing the color purple, I think Alice Walker would just give us one smack upside the head for the ways we all walk through this world, content to ignore it all. Sure there’s heartache all around us, but there is also a whole lot of hope. And as much as we try to avoid it, some of the best inspiration we can ever hope to find will be in the eyes of another.
Today, hold your head up and keep your gaze steady. Trust life a little bit and take it in before getting up and moving on.