flaneur (a day in the life of)

by Aimee Herman on August 10, 2016

I imagine every door I approach to be a portal toward a different temperature, pace, language of thought. A land where there exists no outlets. Bodies free of chords and check-ins. Just veins and bruises and questions and lungs.

In the months leading up to this one, I’ve contemplated more things than could fit on a bookshelf. I almost ran away, like that time I was eight or twelve and filled up silver backpack shaped like a robot with all the necessities. When I couldn’t find any, I threw in a juice box, some grapes and an extra pair of underwear. I got to the end of the block and decided to turn back. I’m not sure what turned my bones into a STOP sign, but I forgot all about those grapes and months later, raisins hid inside my robot.Aimee Herman

And so, amidst fears and anxieties about how to remain in a world full of so much hate and violence, how to possibly begin a legalized life with someone when being Queer still isn’t safe, just like being Black still isn’t safe and being Muslim isn’t safe and and &………I decided to venture into the east village in the sizzling heat to meditate.

I am not too keen on joining things: groups, clubs, conversations. But I decided to reply YES to an all-day outside collective meditation, which was to begin in Tompkins Square Park. Filled my black tote bag with bits of The New York Times, water and my notebook and ventured into Manhattan.

Twice around the park and no one seemed to have any affiliation with anything formally meditative, so I decided to let the day take me somewhere else. I figured I was meant to be in this part of New York in this moment. So I replaced sitting beneath the sun with my eyes closed with walking, eyes wide open, ready for life to approach me in its loudest forms.

I stood outside the park for a few moments, to contemplate my direction, when a tall gentleman approached me.

“You like poetry?” he asked.

“Yes, very much,” I answered.

He handed me a tiny spiral notebook, explaining that these were his poems. At the top of each paper, $5 was written.

After I read two of his poems, I said, “You are quite a minimalist.”

“What does that mean?”

“Oh, just that you are able to say so much in few words. It’s really impressive.”

He didn’t seem to take this as a compliment or even care about any sort of reaction. “They’re five dollars each.”

“I…I don’t have any cash,” I said.

He looked angry. Disappointed. So, I said, “Well, I have an apple! I just got it at the farmers market and it looks really good.”

He mumbled something and walked away. Perhaps not a fan of fruit. Or round objects. Or red things.

I continued to walk, breathing in and out, running through a short mantra my friend, Rebel, told me about as I walked on Avenue A being present minded and open. I wandered into a flea market and inhaled the aroma of dug-up lives for sale. I digested a large heaping portion of air-conditioning in a book shop, where the only words spoke to me were: excuse me’s and can you move a little?

Later on, I felt parts of my neck sweat off my body while waiting  underground for the 3 train (because the A/C train wasn’t running). I approached the subway map yawning its colors and routes at me, when a male-presenting human wearing perspiration and a smile said, “I don’t miss this about living in New York.”

I smiled. “Yeah, I know, which is why we need to find the beauty in it. Somehow.”

I learn that he’s from Los Angeles, but lived in the city for five years. Now, lives with his wife somewhere upstate I never heard of.

I wanted to tell him that all the things we complain about New York make it into what it is. That without the monster-truck-sized rats and urine-drenched pavement and overpriced everything people wouldn’t flock here. To be amongst all of what New York was and is.

The train arrives and we both get on. I continue reading the newspaper and he sits down out of view. I decide to get off at Borough Hall in Brooklyn, because I’m not ready to go home. Because I am hoping to trip on some magic. Because I am always looking for more reasons not to run away.

I purchase chemicals to bring my hair into its slightly unnatural hue. I purchase a tie for later on in the month for when someone might need such a thing. I purchase a coconut ice from a lovely human who looks shrunken by the heat. I find a bench and sit down, scooping cool sweet artificially flavored coconut into my mouth. A young one pushing a bicycle abruptly says, “Miss, will you watch my bike? I need to buy some shoes.”

I say yes before I realize what I’ve agreed to. Not knowing if he’s a speedy shopper or likes to take his time. But I am without time. All of this is part of the walking meditation.

When he comes back out, maybe ten minutes later, he says thank you.

“I really want to give you money but you probably won’t accept it,” he says.

“Oh, it’s fine. No worries.”

“I just really had to get some shoes, you know? Hey, what’s your name?”

I tell him and he smiles. We wish each other a good day and I tell him to enjoy his new shoes. I think about how often we forget each other. Walk right past stories and lives. Rarely look up. Barely even smile.

When my mate and I walk our dog, we say hello to those who pass us by. Smile. Sometimes even wish them a good day. By doing this, we hope to create a bridge where we aren’t just people storming a neighborhood, but part of the community.

I was supposed to keep my eyes closed today. Be still. But instead, by opening my eyes and seeing the life around me, I was reminded why I should stay. Because there are still so many humans I’ve yet to meet and the ones who I know, who I love, who love me, throw magic on the ground each day just for me to trip on.

 

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Read more Aimee in her latest full-length collection, meant to wake up feeling  meant to wake up feeling front cover

Aimee’s website

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