Finding Religion on the Way to Somewhere

originally published by great weather for MEDIA

4 train to Union Square 

“Three weeks ago, I believed in God,” he said to me in a cracked whisper.

“I traveled from Jamaica—the island not the borough—where the water is the color of every girl’s eyes I’ve ever fallen in love with. Like real blue. Like before we got our hands on it.” He pointed to the people sitting in front of him as he spoke, ‘we’.

“And…what happened?” I asked.

“The short version,” he began “is this. My mother…she was a good woman. Cancer ate every inch of her, but even before that happened, she thanked God every day. Said, ‘God gave me this skin, these cupboards, the cans to fill them with. God gave me five children and…” Suddenly he paused and I thought maybe he decided all of this was too intimate to tell a stranger during early morning rush hour on the 4 train.

“What was I saying?” he mumbled. “Oh. Here, God hides. In this city, which you all say never sleeps, it’s full of too many shadows. Now, some shadows come with pockets. See, that’s where God hides. But here, too many of you are pocketless. I’ve been to fourteen churches. Not opposed to mosques or synagogues. Went there too. I’ve tried so many and cannot seem to find Him. In Jamaica, God is everywhere. In the clouds and cracks of sidewalks. In the ackee and saltfish. In the music and on every pair of lips I kiss. And I’ve kissed ‘em all. Believe it.”

As he lost the rest of his words to memory and the cloud of smoke it produces, I thought about the last time I believed in God and where it was found. And where it was heard. And how I lost the ability and desire to believe.

I could trace it back to that scar on my right leg in the shape of a severed kayak, once hyper, now lethargic.

Or it might be that stray hair on my right nipple that I used to pluck out of embarrassment, though now love for its rebellious twist and solo star quality. Is that responsible for my loss of belief?

It is so much easier to speak about God—even amidst the uncertainty and invisibility—than to articulate atheism and the loss of perhaps the most intricate relationship one might ever have.


A train to Fulton St.

I am desperate for a seat. Each time someone gets off, another leaps toward the empty square. I shift my weight back and forth as though I’m on some veiled see-saw. After several stops, there is a space for me. As I attempt to balance my overstuffed backpack on my lap, a woman, gently aged, turns to me and asks if I’ve let Jesus into my heart

I take a deep breath, knowing I am trapped. We are underground and stuffed like capers into this subway jar and it’s hard to ignore someone whose thigh is fused against yours.

“Uh….” is all I can utter.

She smiles and I cannot help to let my lips melt away from their scowl.

“Can I tell you a little about everything Jesus did for us?” she calmly sings. “He took all of our sins into his wrists. He hung for all our nightmares. But when he comes back…” she warns, “we will all be saved and smoothed out of our wrinkled pasts. You just…” And here is where she grabbed my wrist and I let her as though my body no longer belonged to me—did it ever?—and she polished my rippled skin with her wrinkled fingertips and said, “…you just need to let him in. Okay?”


F train to West 4th

I counted four tears. Three out of her left eye and one slowly slinking down her right. She was difficult not to notice: Black eyeliner from yesterday or two days prior. Faded lipstick, kissed off. Stockings and burly black Doc Marten boots. One of those haircuts from seventy decades ago, but she looked to be no more than twenty.

She existed nine years ago on the F train. As I was making my way home from a secret I waited four years to speak out loud.

Commutes were different back then; no blaring video game soundtracks eeking out of fancy phones or hypnotized trigger fingers drunk off candy crush. People just sat. Waited for their stop. Read books more. Listened to music through tiny headphones.

What I wanted to say was this:

The most difficult thing that will ever happen to you is right now. These tears, so insistent, they cannot wait for home. For tissues to sop them up. For a dark closet to pile them into. In this moment, nothing could ever possibly compare to this.

I wanted to grab her fingers and trace enough poems into her skin and knuckles to remind her this salt makes her more human. More alive. More beautiful, even.

And just as I was about to stand up and move toward her—or maybe I was too afraid and never would have—I watched her grab a tiny, beaten-up book with her cracked black-polished fingers.

I thought it was a journal at first. Some kind of aged diary, but then I watched her open it from the end and move her thin lips, quietly reading along. Quietly. Praying.


J train to…to…Norwood Avenue

If you have never fallen asleep on the train, resulting in the complete disaster of arriving in a location you know nothing about and of course you contain no map in your pocket—digital or otherwise—and add to that your bladder is full and you are hungry or thirsty in a way your body has never known before and it is dark out so all the street signs are asleep and you are also half asleep and alone and and and….then you understand what it is to believe in something.

Because this is the moment where you get off the train because you have to.

Because it is the last stop and you are the kind of person who obeys rules like that.

And your watch is on your dresser at home and your phone has died—if you even own one—wouldn’t you love to be the kind of person who doesn’t even own one.

You look ahead and there is a person, half awake as well, behind the glass shield of the subway station counter. They are reading a newspaper or playing a game on their phone; this particular detail has no relevance. What matters is this: they notice you in a way you have never been noticed before. Not in a sexual way or a pity-party way because you are lost and your bladder is screaming, but because they see you as human. As someone who has traveled from somewhere and has made it to here—wherever that may be—and they look up and say, “Take a deep breath. You’re only lost if you let yourself forget that everyplace is somewhere and an opportunity to arrive. So, welcome.”

You look around because this person couldn’t possibly be talking to you, but what does it matter? Youheard it and suddenly you believe in the possibility of something.

Of being.

Of breathing.

Of the lost in everyone and the unbearable dimension of what it is to arrive.

some thoughts on what it is to be a loser &……commuting

This week, two brand NEW performances, which I’ve been working hard on!


Rimes of The Ancient Mariner presents:

“The Losers Club” Project 

Cornelia Street Café – 29 Cornelia Street, NYC

Wednesday January 6, 2016 @ 6:00pm SHARP!
9.00 Admission includes one free drink.

Also featuring: Ron Kolm, Joel Gold, Moira Smith, and many other great performers!




January 7th, 2016:  

BIG WORDS!!! Reading Series

@ 61 Local (61 Bergen St, Brooklyn)


The night’s theme: Commuting

FREE EVENT !!!! (though we need to keep these venues alive, so purchase their delicious food and beverages!)

courtesy of sadness

In the city, which never sleeps, it is difficult to find a napping New Yorker. Even on the subway, there are restless multi-taskers swiping away at their ipads and cell phones. Some balance laptops on laps, while others can be found with a thick pile of papers atop their thighs to prepare for an array of early morning meetings. New Yorkers are always busy and because of this preoccupation with always doing something, they tend to forget to notice what exists around them.

Underground, we seek out seats and balance the weight of gym bag and yoga mat and briefcase and backpack and pocketbooks the size of small suitcases. There are rare moments when the doors open and you have many seats to choose from. During peak hours (and in New York, all hours are peak), you must shimmy your way in and do your best not to let you hands wander; humans get very, very close underground.

Amidst this overcrowded chaos, there are moments where humanity exists in the most symphonic way. Look to your left and you may catch the little girl around 4 or 5 years old singing nursery rhymes to herself as her mom or guardian looks on. A guy at the end of the train seems to have forgotten that he is not in his bathroom, as he lifts bare feet up and begins clipping his toenails. I seem to be the only one in fear of a flyaway piece of hardened keratin. A female nuzzles with her lover: another young woman with a tattoo of a dragon on her forearm. Many act as though they cannot be seen and this is when we can catch bits of uncensored New Yorker emotion.

This is what I look for.

This is what reminds me that although we go home to different sized apartments (some have no home to go to) or engage in lifestyles of varied monetary styles, we are all here on this train together. Religion, race, economic background, or educational history do not matter.

The cover charge is the same for everyone: $2.50 per ride. As I look, I take out my red notebook and begin to write what I see.


It is impossible not to notice the color of May sky on her fingernails. Blue unlike turquoise or swimming pool or deserted-island ocean. Blue like the color of sadness. And she was crying. This young woman, perhaps around twenty-four or younger, had drops of salt falling from her eyes, brown like dug up earth. I sat across from her on the 3 train heading back into Brooklyn on a Sunday. It was early and it seemed like she may have been wearing last night’s attire: carefully ripped stockings, short black skirt that was neither leather nor linen. Cotton spandex mix? Her shirt was also black—true New York fashion derived from the allure of midnight: dark and slimming. Her hair was tossed up into a high pony tail/bun combination. I couldn’t stop staring.

Sometimes I really believe I am invisible as I travel underground from one borough to another. Brooklyn into Manhattan or Queens to the Bronx. Strangers stuck in a train with windows, which do not open. We involve ourselves in technological distractions: the latest popular downloaded game on fancy cell phone; rapper-endorsed headphones over ears blasting shuffled music; travel-sized electronic books. Some sleep. Some sneak sips of beer hidden inside brown paper bag. I have seen mothers nurse their babies and change diapers. I have seen fancy-suited proselytizers. I have seen guardians hit their kids. I have seen the beginnings of sex, heavy petting and deep-rooted foreplay. There has been vomit and piss and spilled meals and grime and rain all staining the floors and seats of these trains.

On this particular Sunday, I want to offer this young person a tissue. I want to climb in the empty orange seat next to her and hold her painted fingers as we sit in silence. I want to ask her what happened. I look around and wonder if anyone else notices what I am noticing or if they are stuck inside the NY code of contact to ignore, ignore, ignore.

Some occurrences on the subway elicit a response. Whenever God is mentioned, there is someone else on the train ready to retaliate. A man screams at his girlfriend and several people get involved to protect. A kid screams his/her way into a deafening tantrum and everyone rolls their eyes at once. But sadness tends to induce complete disregard. Perhaps it is so elevated in ourselves that it is too difficult to notice it in others. So, when this girl cries into her hands, she becomes deeply ignored. All eyes look away, except mine.

There are many rites of passage as a NYC subway rider. The top three that tend to eventually baptize commuters into “true New Yorkers” are: falling asleep and missing your stop, vomiting on the subway and crying while underground. I have reached all three and some more than once.

We tend to notice what we want to notice. Or sometimes we see what we want others to see in us. I notice the sad. When I am stuck on a train full of laughter, my eyes will gather steam from the couple at the far end who are nodding off, track marks on exposed forearms and twitching with each stop. Maybe I feel the need to notice the forgotten humans—the ones cast aside because they look crumpled or lost. The ones who smell. The ones disconnected through distracting electronica.

This particular woman still has the stain of Saturday’s lipstick on lips. I can tell it is from yesterday because it is darkest on the ends and far more faint throughout the rest of her mouth. I watch her take out cell phone and rub finger along screen. She is scrolling up and down, reading something. I imagine her reading text messages from whoever or whatever she came from. Perhaps she is reading something that birthed these tears. A text-messaged break-up? Her lips move as she silently reads from the screen. Her forehead squints into furrows. Her tears stop and now she looks angry. What is happening? She looks up and notices me noticing her. I look down because maintaining eye contact with this beautifully sad woman is far too intimate for me at this time of the day. I prefer being unnoticed or maybe I just enjoy having control over this noticing. It makes me wonder if anyone is noticing me.