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By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept: A Tale of Synchronicity

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I wrote my first book when I was still very young, and in that, naïve. Still, the reviews and sales were good, especially abroad because it was always more of a European book, whatever that means; I’ve never really sorted that out, but that's what I've heard. The book did well in France and was nicely received in America to good reviews from the places that count most to a literary writer.

What struck me most, however, was the preface, written by a man I did not and do not know, who compared my writing to that of author Elizabeth Smart who wrote the fine book By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept – a book I had never read, so had not been influenced by, and an author I had never heard of – but I liked the title. I also liked the other things the preface said, but it was this one thing that made me curious.

I read By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept and I could see the similarities and I was honored. Smart writes prose like poetry and so do I, though she is a far better writer; that I was even put in the same sentence was a great honor and it still is. But that was it. I finished the book and hadn’t looked at it for years until recently.

You see, recently I have been in New York City a great deal and passing through Grand Central Station has been inevitable, and remarkably, one day, by Grand Central Station I sat down and I wept. Okay, I was crying as I made my way up Madison before I made the jog over to Lexington, so I was on my way to Grand Central, hiding my alligator tears behind a pair of giant RayBans and once in Grand Central, I found a small table by the tracks and there, then, at 6:35, I sat down and I wept.

To ask the circumstances seems almost absurd, doesn’t it, in some ways? Or maybe not. What would make someone like me, normally so pragmatic in my emotion in public, so controlled, mathematical almost, sit down by Grand Central Station and weep? So I sat there and I didn’t care about the passers-by, nor did they care about me. I suppose that’s the great thing about New York. You are left alone. So I was left alone with my grief. Alone in a crowd. I had passed through the room with the robin’s egg blue painted ceiling with the constellations, the grand arched windows with the summer light streaming in, I had stood in the corner of the Whispering Wall – do you know it? – if not, I’ll tell you.

A trick of acoustics – I don’t think it was planned, but I could be wrong – there is one corner of Grand Central where you can lean into a corner and whisper something and if a person stands in the corner of the opposite wall across the room, they will hear what you whisper word-for-word. If they whisper back, likewise, you will hear them. Magic. So I went to the Whispering Wall with a friend and I turned into the corner and as he stood waiting for my message across the room I whispered, “I hate you.”

I meant it.

I don’t know what he whispered back. Likely something ineffectual and banal and anodyne. It didn’t leave an impression anyway. So we left the Whispering Wall and went to the table, after an argument earlier in the day, and we sat at the  table and it was there that I wept in Grand Central Station.

Life imitates fiction, and my life imitates a writer and a book that my own writing has been compared to many times. I didn’t remember the book on that day. It had been years since I had read it and even if it had not been, I was too upset anyway. I doubt I was thinking about very much other than this: “People will not only live up to your negative expectations of them – they will surpass them.” Even those you think are closest. Even this one, the first to come along in twenty some-odd years that I finally let down my guard for, even he who I let in and dropped the façade and called my best friend, in the final account was no better than any other.

I say that not as an insult to you, reader. I say that to every shitty person you have ever met. Think for a moment. How often do you drop your guard? How many people do you let into your world, and I mean really let in? Are you as shy as I am? Do you hide behind your dark, owl-like glasses in the corner and play the social extrovert when really, you are hiding behind that role because you are the introvert who wants to remain unknowable? Do you keep a very, very close circle of friends?

As to me, I haven’t dropped that guard in over twenty years. So I meet him, I go slow, I build trust slowly, and slowly, I drop my brick hajib and I let him in because he gives me every sign that it is safe. Every sign. Every reassurance. And over the course of years… years… not a quick trust, but a true friendship, I let that guard down, I take off my sunglasses, I show my eyes. I show my all, and I never do that. For me to do that is a very big deal.

Have you ever heard that song “Liar” by Henry Rollins? Now take that song and apply it to my situation. Ouch, that hurts my pride. I wonder, how could I possibly have been so careful and yet still… Shit, I even know the song and I was a fool. He fooled me with his Chaplinesque, bumbling, seeming innocence and helplessness and me, I fell for it. Don’t get me wrong, I am no saviour. I never tried to save him, but he made me laugh and when he said he loved me for who I am, even the shitty parts, and even as I told him more and more (the bits I never told anybody) he said he still loved me. And me, to me he seemed like me: someone who need the same reassurance, someone who needed joy in his life, a little bit of comfort, some safe harbor, but mostly, he could and did bring me laughter and happiness – and both of us, so many things in common that at a certain point you say, “This is beyond coincidence, this is just weird.”

Our eyes are exactly the same color; they change color at the same time. They are flecked throughout with black pinpricks. Our birthdays, a day apart but just barely; we were born minutes apart – yes, this and a continent and years – but minutes. Words are our currency every day for this is our work. We are Believers – we Believe because we put our faith in symbols and signs: “pessimists with hope” we once said. Should I make the complete list? A few things: we are almost the same height: maybe he is a half inch or an inch taller. His feet, stupid as this sounds, are exactly the same as mine. Not similar, but exactly: high-arched, pale and bird-boned. There is much more – so much more. It is not worth it here. You understand enough. So I think, thought, here there is symbiosis. Here is another like me. Not just emotionally, but even physically. Over time, over the years, we build a whole codified language between us that only we understand. I won’t translate here because some things should remain private. But this language reminds me of Fellini’s film 8 1/2 and the children playing the game Asanisimasa.

So we played Asanisimasa for years and as we did, the symbols and the codified language grew and that language, unintentionally but like any language, came to exclude others. I didn’t see the harm in that because it was simply our code and our short-hand and our symbols; how do you explain what a simple thing – say, for example, a clover flower (even if it has dried up and withered) – means to another person when between the two of you you know exactly what it means but cannot verbalize? After all, isn’t that the point of symbols? They say what you cannot verbalize?

No. I will not list the symbols here. Some things, even when things end, are forever private. You put them in the lockbox of your temporal lobe and maybe it is a language you never speak again. I go to New York again soon: I have nobody to speak that language with anymore, for only he would understand. No doubt, I will find myself at Grand Central Station (this time alone) and I will sit down and weep, this time over what is lost, for there is a great loss here. If you think it is the loss of a lover, then you are dead wrong. If you understand that this is the loss of something more than this, some deeper current, then you are beginning to understand the grief I feel.

I re-read Elizabeth Smart’s book this week. I realized I had missed so much the first time, perhaps because I was too young, or perhaps because I had not suffered this kind of loss. I could not have imagined it, for emotionally I was a child even though I was an adult in terms of experience — growing up in the projects, raising my siblings, getting myself through university, Vogue – but I had never dealt with my tendency to hide, to not let people in. So I learned at last to do this and I succeeded and I, after some odd years of work, I finally stepped out of my corner, removed my dark glasses and showed these pale green eyes and allowed myself to be known.

I chose so carefully. I have come a long way. I am weary. I wonder why I ever stepped out of my corner; why was that necessary? I step back now then; the dark glasses back on, me owl-like in my grief, these marbled green eyes hidden. (“Such a shame, friends say, you have such beautiful eyes,” to which I want, uncharitably, to say, “Fuck you. So what. And where does that get me? I once met someone with the exact same eyes and I saw recognition and I believed that meant something – such a fool I have been. Leave me alone.") If you want to find me, look for me in Grand Central by the Whispering Wall; I will be the one in black, weeping, eyes shielded, and if you approach, approach gently. I frighten and dart quickly as a deer in the inner-city.

Elizabeth Smart wrote:

…we sit at the typewriter, pretending a necessary collaboration. He has a book to be typed, but the words I try to force out die on the air and dissolve into kisses whose chemicals are even more deadly if undelivered. My fingers cannot be martial at the touch of an instrument so connected with him. The machine sits like a temple of love among the papers we never finish, and if I awake at night and see it outlined in the dark, I am electrified with memories of dangerous propinquity… The typewriter is guilty with love and flowery shame…

Thanks for listening.

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About Sadi Ranson-Polizzotti

  • http://artandcritique.blogspot.com/ Elijah

    This is such a great story. Thank you. I can only sympathize.

  • http://7colorlagoon.com/blog1 Howard Dratch

    Sadi. What a charming story, article, confession, shared tale! What a lot of emotion lost in the airy recesses of GCT. It has been so long since I was in the City, in Grand Central, running for a train, asking for information in the gilt carousel of caged faces who give information.

    I hadn’t thought of crying in GC. What better place? Who would stop to ask why in NY? Where else could you feel so alone? I just finished an article for BC on a train trip that took me through Grand Central.

    My wife, who recently died, and I shared so many times in GCT to get to galleries, museums, parties and then home to the Hudson Valley. For me these are happy memories of making the last train back by a hair, eating in The Oyster Bar or grabbing some oysters to go and eating them on the train, of one of us waking the other at Rhinebeck to stumble out into the country again.

    Those who write like angels, like you, will I hope find more candidates to be as we were. Couples who, over the years, merge their souls into the other.

  • Steve

    Hmm, nice writing, Sadi, sorry the content is of a sad nature. You have left alot unsaid (or maybe, I’m just dense!!) about why your relationship with this person changed (perhaps he didn’t explain to you?). Have you wrote about him before at BC?? It sounds similar to something you wrote earlier this year somewhere here.

    Anyway, for whatever the reason, you have my condolences for the loss of a special friendship.

    Whenever friends have let me down in the past, it just drives me to trust God more and rely on people less.

    If you have a loving spouse, and a good friend or two of the same sex to be ‘real’ with, you are probably doing better than many other folks out there.

    If you have more than that, you really are opening yourself up to being hurt. Is it worth having years of friendship, and then be hurt the way you have been?? Only you can answer that question, and that answer will determine whether this is more or less likely to happen in the future.

    Because the odds are, the more people you open up to, the more likely this will happen again. If you keep it down to two or three you MAY avoid it (but there are no guarantees in this life alas).

    That’s how I look at life anyway, I always ask the question, ‘what are the odds?’ (which is odd really, because I don’t like gambling lol!).

    If you go against the odds, expect to get burned (but sometimes things still turn out alright). If you don’t, you can be more optimistic, but again, there are no guarantees.

    On an entirely different note, when are you planning to do another List Of The Moment??

  • http://www.tantmieux.squarespace.com/ sadi ranson-polizzotti

    dear Elijah – thank you – what more can i say. Just thank you.

  • http://www.tantmieux.squarespace.com/ sadi ranson-polizzotti

    Dear Howard – first, let me say, I am sorry about your wife, but any other words i could offer would sound trite so i’ll leave it at that.

    Grand Central can be a place of great magic, great happenings, great firsts. I suppose not everbody realizes this. People pass through every day without even noticing which constantly amazes me but in a way, adds to the magic because you can be utterly lost and in love and unnoticed in a crowd… there’s a lot to be said for that….

    that you say i “write like an angel” – i don’t know. Maybe. I wish, hope that is true, but the old self-doubt creeps in.

    What i remember most is looking up at that pale blue ceiling and seeing those constellations painted there and holding my best-friend’s hands and actually beleiving that in that moment and forever, that anything was possible and that this – this closeness – would never, ever end.

    It’s awful to fimd out that one is wrong. So so so awful. Promises break like wishbones falling to the ground, brittle, snapped in two, with wishes untrue and false. I cannot think of anything sadder or more false.

    Thanks for reading; thanks for listening. = s.h.r.p.

  • http://www.tantmieux.squarespace.com/ sadi ranson-polizzotti

    dear Steve,

    I’ll keep my answer to your comment very very brief.

    I have never once dropped my facade fully and have perhaps two close friends and even with them i have still a slight guard up. It was only with this one friend that i decided that it felt “safe” to let that guard down and i could not have been more measured or careful in observng over the years, going slowly, building a friendship and trust, and etc….. so this is the ONE person with whom i truly dropped my guard and facade, so when you speak to me off “odds” i can only tell you that i dropped it once and never expected in a million years that the one time i did it, with thsi one person i trusted impicitly, that i would ever be so hurt, so grief-stricken.

    So that’s it. It’s really simple. Right now i cannot speak to you about religion or God. This is just not the time. I just cannot. I am no longer sure of what i beieve – sad to say, i no longer have faith in anything and i am not a melodramtic person, rather pragmatic, but this has pushed me so the point at which i seriously wonder about everything….

    so odds: one person, one time, and that’s it…. so what were the odds….. one in a million, or more… and yet….

    the list of the moment i had started, but i have a feeling it will be much changed given my current state of mind and i am trying to just get it together enough to do it…. you know?

  • http://www.marksaleski.com Mark Saleski

    wow sadi, that was fantastic.

  • duane

    Sadi, wow. Gulp.

    It’s all too easy to trot out the usual platitude:

    “I hold it true, whate’er befall;
    I feel it, when I sorrow most;
    ‘Tis better to have loved and lost
    Than never to have loved at all.”

    From Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem In Memoriam: 27 (1850)

    It makes a certain kind of sense. It’s easy to nod your head in agreement. But there are those days when it’s much easier to believe in something that is almost the complete opposite:

    “Sadder still to watch it die
    Than never to have known it”

    From the song Losing It, Neil Peart of Rush (1982)

    Yeah, it’s just a rock band, but the thoughts behind the words are no less descriptive of the various ways people feel while enduring the aftermath of a broken relationship.

    There were those times when maybe you felt as though Destiny had intervened in your life, when you were astonished at the series of events leading to the time and place when and where you acknowledged that something extraordinary was happening. From there, you project yourself into the future and see excitement, security, adventure, fulfillment, self-realization, opportunity. All is right with the world. Then, as so often happens, the day comes when you have to acknowledge that the reality cannot live up to the ideal. That is the loss. It’s the loss of the imagined future. The blank slate that takes its place can be daunting. You might begin to think you miss that person, and you might think you want that person to come back to fill in the blankness. But that’s not it. You miss that feeling of walking two feet off the ground. The fall comes hard when you were once so high.

    But we go on. And it can happen again.

  • Steve

    Well, Sadi, your feelings are perfectly understandable given the circumstances that you have fleshed out for me.

    You take all the time you need to come up with a new List, I realise this is a bad time for you.

    Funny, I was just looking for something last night on a separate issue and came across a dictionary entry for the book of Proverbs. The entry said it was important to bear in mind that the contents of this book were general rules that would be wise to be followed, but it is important to note, that there are exceptions to those rules, in other words, they apply the vast majority of the time, though not in every circumstance necessarily.

    I’m also reminded of polls in politics. In the small print they’ll say things like ‘correct with a margin of error of ?? percentage points, 19 times out of 20.’ I even recall one election we had up here a few years back where the election show host said, ‘well, obviously this is the 1 time out of 20 that the poll is wrong.’

    I’m also reminded of a Christian friend of mine, who lost her virginity to a man, who later cheated on her and gave her herpes. And yet, she knew of women who had slept with lots of men with no apparent negative physical effects.

    My point being, sometimes, life is not fair, because the world we live in is not perfect and is not within our control. Your sadness is understandable, you must be feeling horrible right now. Try to think of times when maybe you did some other thing against the odds and it actually worked out OK, even though the consequences could have been disastrous. That might give you a more balanced perspective on your situation.

    In this world, I find there tends to be an emphasis on the negative events of life, but not as much on the ‘close calls’.

    If you’re feeling down about going with the odds and losing, try to think of the opposite.

    How many times have you crossed the road perhaps rashly, and a car just missed hitting you, for example.

    To paraphrase a popular saying, some people look at life as a glass half empty (which has some truth to it), and some as a glass half full (which also has some truth to it). Which one we focus on will determine how fast we heal.

  • Steve

    Hey, Sadi,
    I can certainly understand you wanting to take a break from the List because of your situation, by all means take your time, you must be feeling horrible right now.

    Funny, I was just looking for something else yesterday, and I came across a Bible dictionary entry about the book of Proverbs. It said that though the book contains general rules that would be wise to follow, it should be noted that as with most rules there can be exceptions at times, in rare circumstances.

    That reminded me of politics and polls. You know how they say, ‘correct to within +/- ## %, 19 times out of 20? Well, there was this one election where the result was quite unexpected, and the TV host said, ‘I guess this was the one poll out of 20 that got it wrong.’

    Then I recalled a Christian friend of mine, who ended up getting herpes with the first man she slept with, after he started cheating on her behind her back. She was really ticked as you can imagine, knowing other women who had had more partners than her but not been adversely affected physically. (She is now happily married to someone else, with a baby on the way).

    Point is, sometimes even if you go with the odds, things don’t always work out.

    In times like that, I think it’s important to remember that there were probably times in our past when we did things against the odds and things turned out alright. We had ‘close calls’, as it were.

    But I find this world tends to focus on the negatives, the disasters, more than the near miss stuff, when tragedy was somehow averted. There is some truth to the saying about life sometimes that ‘the glass is half empty’ but that doesn’t change the fact that that same ‘glass’ as it were, is also half full.

    By all means, grieve the loss of your friendship, but don’t forget about the times in the past when you beat the odds.

  • Steve

    Whoa, sorry, for some reason I thought my first post (comment #9) hadn’t been posted, so I rewrote it later on. Oh well…

  • http://www.tantmieux.squarespace.com/ sadi ranson-polizzotti

    Mark S – hey, wow, thanks….. some times things just come of their own accord. i’m glad you like this… : )

    thanks

  • http://www.tantmieux.squarespace.com/ sadi ranson-polizzotti

    Duane:

    Thanks for sparing the usual platitudes…. i appreciate that greatly….

    I like your optimism, tho obviously, i’m not feeling it at all right now. Not even close.

    Here’s a quote:

    Yet always when i look death in the face
    When i clamber to the heights of sleep
    When i grow excited with wine
    Suddenly I see your face….”

    – Yeats

    well. i’m out of words. i’ve said my peace earlier, but you are very sweet and kind. truly.

  • http://www.tantmieux.squarespace.com/ sadi ranson-polizzotti

    Steve, hey, nice to see you again…

    i do see what you are saying…. that to look at all of the things that i have, but the trouble wtih that is that all of the things that could have gone wrong are also going wrong so this is just not the right time. Not looking for the sympathy vote here, hardly, just that i’m having serious seizures (but hey, if i drop dead it won’t much matter). It’s all very confusing and tied up and not as simple as it may seem on the surface… i dunno… or maybe it seems not so simple on the surface. i can’t say… I can’t be objective about a piee i wrote. It’s just tough tough tough tough tough and i can’t even begin to explain the rest…. so i won’t try…..

    but i appreciate truly all efforts… this is just hard. I’ll probably write a lot…. throw myself nto work when i canm when i’m not seizing etc, which is pretty much every day right now, at least once a day…..

  • http://www.magicjunk.com/blog Mark Sahm

    It’s interesting to see how Grand Central has this persona for you, it’s so different from what I experience every day. But I guess it makes sense since you do not actually live here, that it holds this random yet precise emotional state for you.

    In my thousands of trips through Grand Central, I don’t believe I’ve ever wept, and I’ve rarely sat. Usually, I’m just passing through, from one train to another. If I miss one, I get a beer and walk around until the next one arrives.

    Anyway, here’s an interesting theory for you to explore on your next visit, Ms. Sadi— if you were to absorb the kinetic emotional energy of every person who passed by you in a given amount of time while waiting in Grand Central, how could you channel that energy into a literary consensus? Are they all lost? Are they all drones? How many of them are weeping on the inside?

    What you see may just surprise you… depending on the time of day.

  • http://www.tantmieux.squarespace.com/ sadi ranson-polizzotti

    hi Mark – I think Grand Central has personal affiliations for me, and I am not alone in this. It obviously did for other authors as well… and i did live in NYC for a long time and like you, i pssed through Grand Central all the time. I also am in the city every month, and yes, pass through Grand Central.

    I’m not sure i understand the point of your comment. People have different experiences, different lives (to state the obvious) and what i experience there, what it has meant to me, does not mean that it means the same thing to you – and i am not alone in my feelings – , the same way you pass through Grand Central and walk to your train and that’s it… so whatever.

    Why is that a problem? Am i misreading? I think i miss your point here….

  • Steve

    Hey, Sadi,
    Sorry to hear things are going so badly for you, what’s that saying about trouble coming in threes or something?? Or the other one about ‘if it rains, it pours’??

    I’ll pray you find an ‘umbrella’, (or preferably) a ‘safe house’, as it were, to protect you from the ‘storm’ you’re in right now.

    Re. Grand Central Station, alas, I’ve never been there, so I have no comment.

  • http://www.magicjunk.com/blog Mark Sahm

    My bad, it’s just me not giving my thoughts enough time to breathe before I threw them in a vacuum! But then, that’s why I gave up writing— I never make sense!

    What I really meant was that your account of GCT was an intriguing read to me, in that I find I never have the time to even consider more than a sigh in GCT, let alone stopping to weep. That’s all, no problems at all.

    Think of it as the ‘heads side’ of a coin reading what the ‘tails side’ saw all day, even though they were in the same place the whole time. Nice work.

    I hope your next visit greets you with sunbeams through the high glass windows and crisp fall air. Cheers.

  • http://www.tantmieux.squarespace.com/ sadi ranson-polizzotti

    hi Mark,

    I do know what you mean about trying to see the flip side – and i’ll get there i hope. just not yet. it must seem strange to you – i spent a lot of time in GC as well and i suppose because of personal associations i have always had a certain wist associated with it, but that’s just me – but yes, i agree, one can turn things around, or try anyway – and that’s the main thing – the effort – and i appreciate the thoughts. Those high-arched windows are beautiful. Ffunny you should mention them – i just wrote a poem that inclufded them that was more upbeat…..

    be well, and yes, cheers,

    s.

  • http://www.tantmieux.squarespace.com/ sadi ranson-polizzotti

    steve, hi….

    a little shelter from the storm is most welcome…thank you; that’s really kind…. stay sweet.

    sade

  • Steve

    You’re welcome, Sadi. Anytime.

  • http://www.tantmieux.squarespace.com/ sadi ranson-polizzotti

    thanks steve ; )

    it’s time for me to put together a list – or something other than this drivel…..

    ta, babe…

  • Steve

    OK, Sadi,
    Looking forward to it. Let us know here when it’s up!!

  • http://www.tantmieux.squarespace.com/ sadi ranson-polizzotti

    hey Steve…. it’s up as my last (not last ever) but the last piece on BC so you should easily find it. It’s Volume NO. 23..

    sade

  • Steve

    Thanks, Sadi. I’ve posted something there now.

  • http://www.tantmieux.squarespace.com/ sadi ranson-polizzotti

    hey Steve – cool, i found you – i sought you out –

    veni vidi vici…. (is that the correct spelling?) i think so….

    I seeketh you…. I found…. : )

  • Steve

    Glad you found me Sadi! I wish I could help with your spelling but I’ve never heard that expression before, nice sentiment anyway!

  • P

    I too weep over losses that can’t be restored and sorrows that won’t end. We are, it seems, destined to be ultimately alone.