Last summer I had an incredible experience participating in Teacher’s College Summer Writing Institute. At the end of the week, I submitted my writing for the final writing celebration. It was chosen! That meant I had to read it to a huge crowd of participants at the final celebration. What an experience! At any rate, here’s that piece–part of the experience that has propelled me to write more regularly and lead me toward creating this blog.
“Come in! Come in!” Her molasses voice beckoned me off the teeming, impersonal streets and into the shaded, scented store. Bottles and jars with exotic labels gleamed on shiny shelves. Snake Oil. Karma. Demon in the Dark.
“What’s your name?” she asked… And I told her. She took me by the hand, her own hands warm and strong, yet gentle. She pulled me further into the store.
“Molly,” she said, “We’re gonna do you right.”
Deftly wielding a smooth, thin spatula, she anointed my arm with a thick, fragrant lotion. Her hands rubbed and massaged, working it into my skin, abrasive yet soothing. The rich cadences of her voice mixed with the rhythm of the deep, gentle massage. The occasional blare of a horn, the squeal of brakes, drifted in from the streets as outside the pulse of the city continued unabated. Inside, exotic scents and phrases drifted over me as I relaxed, letting the stress of the past days–the past year–ease with her touch. “More than 10,000 rose blossoms.” “Like conditioner for your skin.”
Next, she bathed my arm, dipping it into a burnished silver bowl filled with warm water, rinsing away the soapy residue. My arm tingled, and as intermittent drops of water sprinkled to the floor, she patted it dry.
Such intimacy in the city.
I had anticipated yet feared this journey to New York. I came in search of solitude and space. I desperately needed to step out of my life and gain some perspective. Surrounded by the needs and voices of others at home, I couldn’t find my own voice, or, perhaps I was avoiding it. I felt lost in my comfortable, narrowly defined world.
Over the past few days, eyes wide and wondering, I had wandered through the busy streets of Manhattan, marveling at the hurly-burly bustle of people in all shapes and sizes. My focus shifted from person to person, window to window, lighting upon the new, the unexpected, the dazzling variety. Yet, gradually, somehow, in the midst of all this stimuli, surrounded by new sounds and voices, I finally slowed down and listened. I embraced the solitude and allowed an inner change–a tentative emergence. The sights, crowds and noises didn’t overwhelm–they cocooned and swaddled. Anonymous, in the midst of the city, I was beginning to hear my own voice, to find my center.
In the recesses of the store, emerging from the caress of the towel, my skin, newly exposed, glowed. A gentle touch, soft scents and warmth. New York. What a city. In the midst of it all, she touched me gently and she called me by name. And I began to know myself.
New York City. You done me right.