On Saturday I went to New York City for the first time. We caught a train in New Haven with our friends after lunch. On the train there was a man who wandered down the aisles talking about nonsense. He smelled of vodka, sweat, and stale urine and had a long greasy pony tail. He was missing at least four significant teeth, but it didn’t stop him from flapping his gums at everyone on the train.
After pacing from the front of the car to the back at least fifty times he sat down right behind me, next to these two girls. They didn’t know what to do, so the they smiled uncomfortably as he rambled nonsensically. There were four policeman waiting at the next station when the train pulled up. The man, who had been approached earlier by the conductor, shouted, “They’re never gonna take me alive,” but then peacefully allowed the police to escort him away. As soon as he was gone, we all started talking about the experience. A woman came and sat down where he’d been sitting and she laughed about it with us and the other poor girls who’d had to put up with the drunk. We were all strangers, but because of the experience we chatted as if we all knew each other.
When the train pulled into the Grand Central Station and I stepped into New York, I as predictably blown away by how big everything was and how many people there were–Homeless people, vendors, bicyclists, taxi drivers, business men, a bride and a groom, another bride and a groom in a carriage, a men in tuxedos and women in ballgowns in the afternoon. There were well dressed men, well dressed women, families, immigrants, artists, old men with hats. There were people everywhere in this city that seemed to go on for miles. We walked for miles–strolled through Central Park, shopped in the SoHo area, hung out in Stonewall, ate dinner in the West Village–and we must have passed millions of people.
One of those people that we passed was that woman from the train–the one who’d sat down where the drunk had sat and chatted with us. We didn’t plan the encounter. We were just walking to dinner on a random street between Soho and the West Village–far from Central Station–when we passed each other. She recognized us, and again we talked about the strange experience on the train and marveled at how remarkable it was that we’d seen her again that day. If there had been no drunk on the train, if we hadn’t had that strange experience, we may still have passed her on the street hours later, but we wouldn’t have recognized her face or known that she had been on the train with us earlier. It was the first experience that made the second encounter significant. Afterwords we tried to figure out how we’d run into her. Out of the millions of people we saw and didn’t see in that city, I have no idea what the odds are for such a random meeting, but it is very improbable. It shouldn’t have happened, and yet it did. The whole thing made the world feel so small and life so planned out down the tiniest poetic detail.
This weekend I have thought a lot about my relationship with Michael. He and I complement each other so well that our constant compromises are so subtle I don’t even notice them. It’s almost like we view the world with the same lens. In every way he is perfect for me. It’s a miracle I ever found him. He is my first love–my first real boyfriend. It should have taken a million dates to find a person who was half as good for me as he is, but I found him basically at the first try. I think the odds of that happening are about as likely as the odds of running into that not so anonymous woman from the train in the middle of New York City. It’s so far beyond improbability that it makes me want to believe in God just so I can have an explanation for it. It’s remarkable.