Brooklyn—Nostrand station, broad daylight. Above ground, overgrown beards or red lipstick holds shaggy hipsters together like central connective tissue. Pinterest-worthy succulents sit in renovated windows, watching abandoned couches decay in the empty lot below. Black and white elbows rub and clank through charming coffee shops or dingy corner stores. Trash bags line the street, their origins impossible to differentiate. Dogs of all sizes sniff at their openings before being tugged away by organic hemp or dollar store leashes. The in-between fades into the background. As if finding the greys in Brooklyn’s transformation is too inconvenient and confusing.
Above ground, Bed-Stuy continues to gentrify.
I am not sure how to make sense of it down here, below ground.
I stand at the platform, watching a rat weave under and over the vacant tracks. That morning, I decided forgo brushing my hair. My purse is stained and my jacket missing half its buttons. But I don’t have to fix it. I can walk into a strange restaurant and use the bathroom no matter what I wear.
I am contrasted with the woman next to me—older, well dressed, more put together. She balances her iPad on one arm, bags from a day of shopping dangling below. And her hair is nicely done. And she’s got all her buttons. And she’s Black and I’m White.
A third woman runs our way, trotting along the platform, looking for help. She flags me down; our hands match. White. Nail polish peeling because it can. She asks me a question about train connections and I reveal that I’m a tourist. She gulps in air, her eyes worried. “This is going to be an adventure,” she says. And continues to look around for an answer. The other woman next to me looks up, but does not get asked for directions. And we all stand in silence until the train comes. And when it pulls up and men of color move over to offer the lost woman a place to sit, she stands, huddled by my seat, clutching the cold railing on the journey to Manhattan.
I wish I had said something then. My silence was hurtful. I continue to regret it.
Rachael is a writer and psychotherapist in Boulder, Colorado. Her practice, Atacama Counseling, uses creativity, empowerment, and feminist psychology to explore issues of abortion, sexuality, and sexual empowerment. Through her writing Rachael enjoys merging grit and vibrancy to bring voice to the silenced corners of women’s experiences. She is currently working on her first novel, “Valparaiso, Barefoot,” about a girl’s struggle with depression, mania, and sexuality in Chile. Follow @rachaeluris on Twitter.