Subway Diary

4 min readNov 15, 2018

It was snowing when I ran out of my apartment to catch the train this afternoon, on my way to a play rehearsal. I missed the train I needed by ten seconds, and then it was another twelve minutes until another — an eternity in New York. So I ran back to my apartment to grab the cottage cheese that I initially forgotten to bring with me (because I had neglected to make breakfast or lunch for myself up to this point, and I wanted to have something to eat without wasting money buying something else).

I’m habituated to running late — I like it. I see how late I can stay at home, I do not like the idea of arriving early, or sacrificing time to be early, or even potentially early. This is silly, because I always feel a little guilty and embarrassed and unprofessional when I arrive at my destination late. I wonder if lateness, if busyness, is a defense against taking my life too seriously; if on some level I’m refusing the idea of being a dependable adult, if I’m not mutilating the dependable adult that I otherwise am. And I wonder — more damningly — if I’m not resisting the existential emptiness of my own life, by never leaving myself enough time to think about it. Probably.

‘All that is fixed and certain,’ Leopardi wrote, ‘is much farther from contenting us than that which, by its very uncertainty, can never content us.’ All that is fixed and certain, he might have added, is dead, mummified, and useless to us; modern life conflates new, unknown, even random with aliveness; traditional, staid, predictable, with deadness. An old product, like an Iphone 5, is not an interesting classic, like say, an old, handmade watch — it is simply a pathetic relic of a prehistoric, pre Iphone X world. ‘Yesterday was fine, but what about RIGHT NOW?’ our brain (mediated by advertising) screams.

Run around, by juice, go to the gym, get a new pair of jeans or shoes, run to the subway, make it to your meeting, kill it, go home, watch Netflix, pass out, repeat. Yesterday dissolves into the endless present; the distant past is so deeply forgotten that it has no impact on yesterday, let alone the endless present, at all. We — I? — are rootless, random, un-rehabilitated uncertainty addicts. All the data now accumulated by our phones, the feedback loop that we’re all caught up in, ironically, tells us that nothing makes sense: that our attempts to cut through the noise only…