Culture Shock

Exploring the world's nooks and crannies.

French Tourists

“Colleen!” The woman with circular framed glasses pushed through standing subway riders as the train entered the 23rd street station. She was frazzled, pressing her hands onto the window of the doors, impatient for them to open. Quick seconds passed, and the doors released her scream onto the platform. A smiling girl was lurched into the car, the crowd of people around this woman all emitting a uniform sigh of relief. Tears and nervous laughter erupted from the tourist family, the doors closed as the conductor announced 18th street as the next stop, and the smiling girl received a swift, terrified slap to the side of her head, her light brown hair floating upwards from the impact. The woman on the platform smiled gently, returning the thankful wave of the French mother. The girl was held in a strong embrace by the woman with the circular framed glasses as she heaved and cried, sputtering french words in the paradox of both fear and relief for the daughter who was very close to being lost in New York City forever.


Soggy matches. Murky puddles. Squeaky sneaker bottoms. Warm breakfasts in diner windows with hash browns, buttered toast. Warm coffee. Damp hair.


Rainy Saturday. 

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Grand Central Terminal

Meetings, farewells, brimming with romance, hustle and fascination. A storybook composed with difference to all who pass through its cavernous interiors.

. . .

We sat, finding a corner secluded enough, to wait for his train. We spent our last few moments together in silence. We were by the entrance to track twenty-something, shoes shuffling by us second after second towards the platform. My legs were folded up, knees leaning against his thighs. My head was propped up by his shoulder, my left ear plugged to the noises of the station. My head heaved up and down with every rise and fall of his breath. I remember never wanting to move from this place, so secure and warm. 

. . . 

I was early, and so I waited for the train in the central terminal. I looked up to the zodiac constellations, glittering whitish-yellow in the teal ceiling. I always become nostalgic looking at that ceiling. I was headed home. I thought about the pies I had to bake.  

. . .

I waited impatiently as my nerves set in. His train would be there in minutes and ours would be leaving precious moments after. Where was he? How could we not find each other? I was always the late one. Patience is a virtue. We hadn’t seen each other in weeks. I saw him across the way, and motioned for him to run. He walked-ran towards me and we darted to the train that we made with minutes to spare. 

. . .

We were seniors in high school. We posed for my point and shoot, my mother promising us that the photograph was perfect. We put on our best “fashionable in the city” look and smiled big towards the lens. I wore an off the shoulder shirt and shorts with low tops. She had a creamsicle orange tank on and great leather wrap sandals. We were young and shiny. Ready to take on a new chapter of our lives.

. . .

We carried our garment bags over our shoulders, I balanced mine with my duffle bag. We were groggy, staying up all the night before catching up on each other’s lives. Yet I was happy, and headed to a place one of my dearest friends was to be married–we would create beautiful memories this weekend. How wonderful it would all be. These three days I had looked forward to for twenty four long weeks were finally here.

. . .

He’s a jokester. I will never understand people who don’t feel the stress of a train leaving in five minutes. His friend went to grab a beer. I waited with him by the central clock. We spotted a group of asian tourists posing for a photo– three frozen running men. He leapt at the opportunity–the camera flashed, and now, forever marked on a camera somewhere in the world, is a picture of four running men, and one of the smiling faces forever an unknown one. 

. . . 

10:45 pm, December 11th, 2013

He had a fade. It was perfect. The car was double-parked by the front of a doorman apartment in Upper Manhattan.


I initially recognized his boots, the monotonous tan color familiar to me. Camouflage  pants were tapered and tucked neatly into the laced up boots. He wore only the uniform’s undershirt and a fleece. Was he cold? It was unzipped, and it bloused, filling with winter air, as he gathered a plastic bag from the car. He turned to me, slightly hunched over as I approached his path perpendicularly, power walking to beat the chill. I took note of the plastic bag– thin, white, and filled with neatly folded laundry. He headed to the door as I passed him, our eyes meeting for only a quarter of a second.


Where was he going? Did he live in this building? or was he only visiting for a short while, catching a rest between posts?


I wanted to befriend him–this young military man, my potential neighbor.


Sending Letters

I think he was a student. He had that ivy-league-collegiate look to him.

He was dressed spectacularly, in my opinion, wearing a forest green chino pant, a plaid button down, and brown oxfords–despite the inclement weather. In his hands was a book. I think it had to do with law. His features lent him a boyish quality, yet it didn’t interfere with the well-traveled and mature poise he seemed to carry. He had sandy brown hair combed away from a side part. He looked old-fashionably handsome. His blue eyes had a quality of good humor, mystery. As if he would tell me an old story of a night he was up to mischief.

His eyes glanced in my direction, I immediately averted my gaze. He looked away, moving forward in the queue.

“Anyone buying stamps or paying with a credit card can step out of the line”, said the postmaster.

“Excuse me, I have a question.” He spoke.

His voice was shockingly deep and confirmed my ideas of his ballpark age. He asked the question regarding the book in his grasp and when reassured he was in the right place, proceeded again in the queue.

He looked back at me once more. I held the gaze a moment longer than the last, but averted my attention shyly to the stack of golden envelopes in my hand. He was called to a window, mailing the book.

I left the post office successfully delivering the notes to my loved ones sprinkled across the world.


The heart. It aches.

Layers of caked-on protection flake, dried and peeling away from years of stagnancy. The layers float to the base of the cavernous chest. Never to be reclaimed.

Vulnerability sits perched atop the heart, a glowing thing. Bewitching. One glimpse drives a desire to know the entity. Very few get to see vulnerability. A shield of metal and precious jewels protect vulnerability, the shimmering crown encircles the glowing ember.

The heart and its vulnerability hang, dangling delicately by a glittering thread.

The cavity is so hollow, so dim. It yearns to be filled with the light of Love.

The thread is thin, the heart in repair, and vulnerability protected.

Only when the heart finds love will it be renewed, the cavity will fill with glowing light, revealing the glittering thread and the golden, bejeweled crown.


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