Small Interactions

I walk everywhere in New York. And when I'm not walking I'm sitting on the subway train. The subway is an interesting place. It is filled with hundreds of thousands of people every day. Every day we each wake and carry our tired selves to the subway where we sit and stare. To counter the uncomfortableness of awkwardly sitting and staring at nothing at all as we are all pressed up against one another's bodies, many of us wear headphones and listen to music. It distracts our minds and brings us comfort. A familiar song to listen to amongst all the familiarly unfamiliar tired faces.

One day while I was sitting and staring awkwardly at nothing at all, pressed up against another subway rider's body, I put my headphones in. And then I sat there and stared some more. I did not press play and turn the volume up, I just sat there uncomfortably with my comfortable headphones in my ears. And that was just it: my headphones brought me comfort because wearing them meant that if anyone sitting and staring even so dared to break the awkwardness and speak to any one of us, making us even more awkward and uncomfortable, I would not have to interact with this stranger. I was too busy wearing my headphones (with no music in them).

And then it happened.

An old man got on the subway train and began singing and playing his guitar, beautifully, might I add. He turned to an older woman on the train and began singing to her.

I've got sunshine on a cloudy day
When it's cold outside, I've got the month of May
I guess you'd say
What can make me feel this way?

My girl, my girl, my girl
Talkin' 'bout my girl
My girl

She smiled at him cautiously and then her eyes met mine. I smiled at her and she smiled at me back, the way two nervous women smile at each other as if to say, "I know you're uncomfortable with this man (or situation) and so am I, and so I am smiling to tell you that I'm here, I've got your back and I'm on your side."

I've got so much honey, the bees envy me
I've got a sweeter song than the birds in the trees
Well, I guess you'd say
What can make me feel this way?

My girl, my girl, my girl
Talkin' 'bout my girl
My girl

The man continued smiling and sang to other women and men, too, and then he turned and sang sweetly to me. Harmoniously harmless. I smiled at him cautiously and turned to the other older woman and our eyes met again. And we laughed. We laughed and the man laughed and under our breaths, the woman and I began to sing. I took off my headphones to listen to the music. We smiled and we laughed as others began smiling and laughing, too. The man finished his song, collected a few dollars and cheerfully exited the subway and was on his way.

The woman spoke to me. "I wasn't laughing to be rude."

"I wasn't either."

"I was laughing because my daughter texted me moments earlier to tell me that she's chosen the song that she's going to play at her wedding. It's the song, My Girl. And then this man played it."

"It's a wonderful song! What an amusing coincidence. It's lovely, though, and your daughter getting married, too."

"It really is."

She turned and began chatting with another woman on the train, one whom also was sang to by the old man with his guitar. The train stopped and she stood up.

"Have a nice day!"

"You as well!"

And she left.

I don't need no money, fortune or fame
I got all the riches baby, one man can claim
Well, I guess you'd say
What can make me feel this way?

My girl, my girl, my girl
Talkin' 'bout my girl
My girl