This woman’s experience reminds me of the night I should have died in a car wreck; instead, my hands automatically released the steering wheel, my awareness flooded with white light, and when I “came to,” the car had stopped, facing backwards, one foot from a yawning cliff, having missed the oncoming bus by a fraction of an inch. I know that the laws of physics were bent that night. It was not my time to “die.”
As we begin this new year, let us remember the brilliant invisible worlds that support our every thought, word and deed.
Here’s how it begins:
I wondered what I was doing in this godforsaken place, when exactly I had become so insubstantial, agreeing to go out to the store alone at ten, agreeing to do all kinds of things I didn’t really want to do. I shivered a little with self-pity.Manhattan in the 1980s was a gritty place. I used to think of it as having a dark glamour but no more. A few years before, I had come to Manhattan like someone drawing close to a fire. I wanted to be warmed, enlightened. But nothing turned out the way I hoped, not love, not work, not life. I pictured myself a waif huddling along in a bleak neighborhood, bringing her own pasta to dinner. The image was so pathetic that I savored it, a fragment of a modern Dickens tale.
I was passing an empty parking lot on West 35th Street near Tenth Avenue when three men rushed out at me from the shadows of a gutted tenement across the street. I heard them before I saw them, pounding toward me, whipping past me, stopping and wheeling around, taking up stations around me, as purposeful and practiced as football players,
For a few moments, we stood and stared at each other. Incredibly, I was gripped by an impulse to smile and make eye contact, to diffuse the situation by establishing that we were all fellow human beings, even potentially friends. They were not interested in making friends.