Open When You're Ready

July 15, 2011
Just Breathe. People do this everyday. Loosen up the belly. Quit tightening it. Mom says the tightening increases the anxiety. Breathe. I squeeze the arm rests on either side of me. Mom’s soft hand holds on to my left hand. I hear her snap at Dad and suddenly his hand is holding my right hand. Just breathe. Deeply in, deeply out. The humming begins-- loud enough for me to hear, soft enough to be overlooked by those around me. I hum to distract the fear, to calm the fear, but I am defeated. Gasp. We are sharply tilted back. I slightly open my right eye and peek at the window. Breathe. Is it normal to be going this fast? Pop. My eyelids begin to apologize as the first victorious tears trickle down my cheeks. Breathe. Slowly. In. Out. Sleep.

“There’s no time to drop off the luggage. Claudia is already in the City waiting for us with her parents, my mom, and Isabella. We don‘t waste any time here. If you were hoping for a brief nap before heading out, fuhgettaboutit! Unless you wanna take a brief one in the car on our way there?” He moved quickly, picking up one suitcase at a time and moving it smoothly into the trunk, never stopping to take a break, or breath, from speaking. Lenny, the epitome of a Jersey/New York native: fast-talking, always moving, Italian. “Lorena Junior, have you ever been on a train?” I shake my head. “So I’m guessin’ you’ve neva been on a train that goes underground eitha?” I smile and shake my head again. “Well, twenty minutes he-a and that’s gonna change.”

How can anyone describe the feeling? Amazed, overwhelmed, shocked? The subway took us straight from Jersey, under the river, into the middle of the City. Still underground, I was anxious to surface. Lenny seemed to be leading us through a never-ending maze. Finally, stairs. I refrain from holding the railing next to me; it is nearly black with filth. My lowered gaze is kept on my feet following each step towards the surface. The feet in front of me stop walking. I look up, then to my right, to my left, behind me, up again, left, right. The feet in front take a step back next to me and I feel my mother’s arm lock into mine. So many people walking in all different directions, skyscrapers that seem to fade into the sky, a wide variety of sounds in all languages. The feeling is a combination of all three: shocked, amazed, overwhelmed.

These three words describe the entirety of my week in the City. Everything was fast paced and the week itself seemed to run away from me faster than I expected. Mom and I had some difficulty keeping up with Lenny’s brisk walking, so our main focus became the back of his head to assure we would not lose him. Every day was non-stop and just when I thought I could not handle the extreme energy of the City much longer, I was guided to a haven.

Everything is green trees with lavish amounts of leaves and grass so soft it seems unreal. I run my fingers through the grass around me and lay back. With closed eyes, I take a breath-- cool breeze, hot dogs, gasoline, hints of freshness, a combination only this City can make appealing. I listen-- laughing, feet rhythmically meeting the ground, leaves shuffling with the wind, distant sound of cars zooming and busy people. The extreme energy the City initially stabbed me with was now neatly packaged, wrapped, and gifted to me with a polite note that said, “Open when you’re ready.”

The haven calmed the chaos, it didn’t make it disappear, it simply calmed it. It made it manageable. I made a note of the name: Sheep’s Meadow, Central Park. For this, I will return.

“Missing your flight and all, I’m guessin’ you don’t wanna waste more time and head straight to the City, right? I can drop you off at the ferry, it’ll take you straight to Midtown where there’ll be a series of buses outside the building, they’ll take you where you wanna go, and I’m sure you can figure it out from there. You‘ve been here before, Lorena Junior, you‘ll be fine.” It was true, I had been there before, but over a year had passed and I had not spent my free time studying maps of the island. However, I was craving to be back in the City and my best friend, my companion on this trip, was anxious to be introduced.

“Uh, this one!” was the answer to my question. It was how we decided which bus to get on after the ferry. It was the first bus we saw.

Every day for the following two weeks paralleled the spontaneity of that first day. We were more organized, of course, mastering the subway lines, bus schedules, and learning the necessity to always carry at least twenty dollars in cash. The true triumph came when we managed to get ourselves to the Brooklyn Museum and back. Sure the subway stop is directly in front of the museum but once underground all the signs and subway tags seem to intertwine into one, so it was a triumphant victory for two Texan girls.

Making it to Brooklyn, zooming past those who look confused at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, making it to Liberty Island, giving correct directions when asked, all of this boosted my City confidence and motivated me to explore more. But no matter where our explorations lead us¾ pizza parlors near the Financial District, awkward window displays in the West Village, people watching in Times Square, lemonade stands in Greenich Village-- we always ended our day in Central Park.

Everything was still green. The sights-- a group of friends playing baseball, a suspicious man with a suspicious cooler, my best friend napping on the unreal grass, two women giggling as they attempt to conceal the wine bottle poking out of their bag. The scents-- cool breeze, hot dogs, wine, gasoline. The sounds¾ giggling, jogging, deep, heavy sleeping breaths, book pages waving.

The haven and I sit together with the open gift between us. I apologize for my delay in looking inside and a comforting breeze arrives to embrace me. Smiling to myself, I remember a me from a few years back whose main goal was simply to grow up, fall in love, get married, and have children. Anything other than that was just impossible. But suddenly, I was thirsting for more. The only obstacle: fear of the tough journey, fear of the stress, fear of failing, fear.

“Thank you for introducing me to the more. Thank you for giving me a refreshing sip of what could be, of what I could be.”


We are sharply tilted back. Breathe. I squeeze the arm rests on either side of me. Breathe. Open your eyes, it is okay. Breathe. Hands relax. Breathe. Peek out the window; it looks beautiful. Breathe. Live.

Join the Discussion

This article has 3 comments. Post your own now!

Nina said...
Jul. 22, 2011 at 3:19 pm
Just Love It, you make me feel I was there again...kudos 
Gabi said...
Jul. 22, 2011 at 3:14 pm
hii Nena , ya vote ;)
luisaleal95 said...
Jul. 22, 2011 at 1:22 pm
impressive,the way of express your self make feel feel like i was the one in the story,very proud of u!.
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