Sunday, December 26, 2010

Getting There
December Photo Project Day #26

Union Station Christmas Tree #1
Christmas Tree at Union Station, Washington D.C.

I was scheduled to leave Virginia and return to NYC on Monday morning.  But dire weather reports and the constantly fluttering flakes outside had me worried.  Would I be able to get out?  What if I get stuck here?!?

I got an email from the bus company at 5:30pm, confirming my fears: All busses for Monday were cancelled, due to inclement weather. I didn't think I could stand it - another day in Virginia.  I was at the end of my holiday rope and desperate to get back to NYC.  And so I made a quick decision and bought a ticket on the next Amtrak train out of town.

As I headed to Union Station, I wrestled with a disquieting mix of guilt and relief.  Guilt because I had left so quickly - perhaps rudely?  The thought of getting stuck at home had made my cry, and my parents had seen me cry, and I didn't mean to be hurtful, exactly.  But I desperately wanted to leave.  And then I felt relief because I was leaving, was heading home to a place where I would be happy to get snowed in.  Guilt and relief, relief and guilt, flip-flopping around inside of me as I picked up my ticket and waited to board.

(The fact that I used "home" to mean two different places in that last paragraph did not escape me. I think it's evidence of the push-pull confusion of this current stage of life.  Where is "home"? Yeah, I don't know.)

Once aboard my freedom train, I ended up sitting next to a plastic surgeon named Al.  We chit-chatted the entire trip, covering the gamut of subjects: families, favorite classes in college, work situations, New York neighborhoods, dating, religion, hobbies and food habits.  I even learned what makes one nose job more difficult than another (hint: it's not what you think).

Al said, "You have a nice nose...I mean, I don't know if it's been 'done'?"  I said "No, it's an original."

And in the course of our conversation, as I answered Al's questions, I started to see myself as an individual again.  Unique, original, individual me. Not the out-of-date picture of me that my parents see.  And not the self-image I sometimes try to project.  Just me. Not caught between past and present, not pulled between DC and NYC, but  The tension between guilt and relief didn't need to be resolved, because both are fine, both are fitting.  Both are me, but just for right now, just for the moment.

I'm not sure if any of that made sense; I'm a little doubtful it did.  It's been, as Adam Duritz once said, a long December.  And I'm tired from it.  But thankful for train tickets and strangers on the train.

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