February 24, 2015 [Tuesday]
The entrance to Grand Central leads into a concourse filled with people, people everywhere. People going down the escalators in large masses like a human waterfall; people milling about the hall aimlessly, discussing New York and Times Square and tourist attractions; people rushing through the crowds, cursing left and right as they go. It is impossible to tell how many countries these people hail from, how many languages they speak, how many religions they follow.
But I have exited Grand Central to go to work, and I am captivated by the way the sunlight falls upon the yellow taxicabs, the large black SUVs and the glass windows of the tall buildings opposite to where I stand. Today, there is a certain beauty in the way the sun is out again, warm and welcoming after its lengthy hibernation, and in the way it makes the blue of the “Apple Bank” opposite me a lighter blue than it would normally be.
Walking here is a fact of life. There is no escaping it. As I walk to work, hands in pockets from the biting cold and feet stepping over the neat cracks in the concrete sidewalks, I count the blocks and the avenues and consider what I should grab as a snack. The avenues take much longer to cross than the streets – one street, two streets – and advertisements are everywhere, large and imposing but also tasteful, less visual pollution than those plastered across the public spaces of Lebanon. Do you have a fear of getting old? one ad asks, taking up a sizable portion of the building to my left. You’re not alone. Everyone has a *FOGO, but that doesn’t mean you have to be okay with it. Pfizer has a whole series of images of people set up along the side of the building, ranging from young women to old couples to middle-aged men, as if it expects viewers to be rushing past most of the time and in need of several consecutive reminders of the ad’s presence (and really, they are).
I doubt people in this city have much time to worry about getting old. As I walk across the wide sidewalk to wait at Second Avenue, a man coming towards me dressed in a long black coat and carrying a briefcase is frowning into the phone, and a girl bumps into my shoulder as she rushes past, her shoulder bag and laptop bag flailing from over her elbow, her boots black and made of rubber. It is almost funny.
I imagine age creeps up on people, the way the new year takes so many months to sink in, because sometimes we forget the mechanics of time. But then again, sometimes we are so aware of it, aware of the way time passes and old age approaches, aware of the way our bodies are changing and the way our responsibilities are growing and the way our dreams have or have not come to fruition. Sometimes we are so aware that we will one day be seventy years old (or dead), creased by time like origami paper and tired, so tired. Sometimes we can’t believe we have not done enough yet, or fear that we may never do enough at all.
It is later in the day, the sun now just beginning its path of descent, when I finish praying in a sunlit office that is temporarily empty, its occupant on leave for a while. I am about to exit the room when I notice a small cross dangling from in between a stack of books, perhaps from a keychain or a necklace, some sort of keepsake left behind. I look closer, and it seems to be bronze.
I smile slightly at the way different religions have come together in this room, at this workplace that is filled with people from so many different countries who embrace so many different cultures, and I shut the door quietly as I leave. Some variables seem to be the same for us all. Time, age, faith in something; even the ultimate Fear of Getting Old, which perhaps manifests itself in various ways. The office is warm and friendly, and amongst these people from all over the world, I am at home.