on friday afternoon, as i walked home from on a sunshine high (seriously, how good was the weather on friday?), i had one of those, god, i love new york moments. the sky was a crisp, clear blue. the humidity was low. it was 3pm and i’d already finished work, eaten mexican food outside in the sun, done a bit of shopping, and walked home from soho. the rest of the afternoon and evening stretched in front of me, sweet freedom with not a care in the world.
for a moment, i really loved my life. not because anything wonderful had happened, but just because for those few minutes, i was blissfully happy.
until i wasn’t.
see, new york city has a way of never letting you get too close to bliss. the city will let you teeter precariously on the edge of happiness. it’ll let you stand on precipice of perfection, but it’ll never quite let you get there.
and just as i was feeling like the world was my oyster, like someone had poured glitter into my veins, i encountered your garden variety crazy person, screaming on the sidewalk at lord knows who.
“you’re not a real american!” he shouted. “you think you’re a fucking american? i’ll tell you who’s a fucking american. you’re not a REAL AMERICAN.”
now, i’ve lived here long enough to know that the best method in these situations is to keep your head down, continue walking, and not draw any attention to yourself. and most importantly, not to make eye contact. so, i kept pace about a hundred feet back, as he ranted and raved in front of me.
until he stopped directly in front of the CVS i needed to enter, and i had no choice but to walk right by him. at first, i paused, held back a bit. something told me to brace myself, that maybe i should cross the street.
don’t be stupid, i counseled my inner voices. he’s not even talking to you. he doesn’t even see you. he doesn’t even know you’re here.
so i kept walking.
and guess what? he saw me. because as soon as i came into his line of vision, he started shouting.
“FAT AND BLONDE. YOU’RE JUST FAT AND BLONDE. THAT’S ALL YOU ARE. YOU THINK ANYONE CARES ABOUT YOU? FAT AND BLONDE. YOU’RE JUST FAT AND BLONDE.”
for the record, folks, there were no other fat and blonde people in the area. nope, he was talking to me. screaming at me. immediately, my cheeks caught fire, and i ducked into CVS and headed straight for the back corner, where i could take a few deep breaths and regain my calm.
before i knew it, i was willing myself to hold back tears in the snack food aisle. if my life were a movie, this would have been the moment where little scary cartoon devil people had popped up all around me screaming, fat and blonde! fat and blonde! fat and blonde!
i wanted to simultaneously smack myself for letting a mentally ill person get to me and burst into tears right in front of the fruit snacks.
as soon as i checked out, i did what any sane 28 year old person would do (not): i called my mother. who proceeded to tell me, in the most rational voice possible, that i couldn’t let a random homeless person get to me. in the background, my sister called out, “you don’t even know that he was talking to you!”
but i did. i did know he was talking to me. i’m sure of it. but whether he was or he wasn’t is somewhat irrelevant, isn’t it? because the reality of the situation was that he only had power over me, and over my feelings, if i let him. if i allowed those sorts of statements to seep into my bones and vibrate throughout my body, i was sure as hell going to feel like a big fat pile of UGLY.
if, instead, i chose to try and shake it off – to buy myself a bouquet of sunflowers at the bodega and remind myself that it was beautiful outside and i was happy – then he didn’t win.
so i gave myself about 10 minutes to feel sad about it, and then i straightened myself up again, bought myself not one but two bouquets of flowers, and told myself it was okay. and you know what? after about an hour, it was. just like that! just by telling myself i wasn’t going to let that negativity affect the rest of my day, it didn’t.
and that, my friends, is the power of positive thinking.
or maybe the power of sunflowers.
or maybe (most likely), the power of saying to myself, over and over again, i’m not as fat as i used to be, you motherfucker.