The New York Grind

Monday morning. A jack-hammer cacophony kicks me awake. Not even 7am yet. I pound my alarm clock, craving another ten minutes of sleep — a junkie begging for one last bump.

I crawl into the shower. Run the water cool. Relish it. It’s July, it’s muggy, it’s hell. And it’s only going to get worst. I still have to noose that tie around my neck.

I hurry outside. A blast of 90-degree humidity slams into me. Sweat follows seconds later. It gets worse by the time I find myself on the subway platform, waiting for my train, shoulder-to-shoulder with hundreds of others.

I look at my phone. Shit. Running behind. Where the fuck is that train? The sweat now pours down my spine. I shake my shirt, trying to cool myself. I look at the others. Why aren’t they sweating? It always seems like I’m the only who suffers.

At last, the train arrives. But it’s packed. Not a soul gets off, not even a roach. I try to shove my way in, but I’m pushed back by a wall of human sardines.

I have no choice but to wait for the next train. I recheck my phone. Grimace. One more lateness, I’ll be unemployed. But God is with me today. Another train pulls up within seconds.

Doors open. I jump in. Ahhh… air-condition. I don’t even care that the sweat is going to cake on my skin, on my neck and on my face for the rest of the day.

I check my cell again. It’s going to be tight, but if everything goes well, I might be able to squeak into work with a minute to spare.

Train stops. Times Square. Mobs of commuters. Suddenly, that “minute” I took for granted seems more like a wet dream.

As much as I rush, as much as I urge people forward, as much as I try to hurry the masses of human cattle to march, I fail.


My sweat glands piss out buckets. But it’s a water-gun trying to put out a forest fire. The ambient temperature nears 100 degrees. Every touch of a person sends signals to my brain to fight or flee.

I’m now peeking at my phone every millisecond, wondering if this is the day I get fired because it was my job to begin the meeting.

There’s still hope if I catch the next train. I play Pole Position with the crowd, jockeying as the connecting train pulls into the station.

Hope shatters. There is no way I’m getting to work on time — not with lines upon lines of commuters who have better position than me. Fuck it. I push, shove, claw, scrape. People yell, push back, say vile things to me. Like I care. Door closes. I lunge. I have help. Someone else is as desperate as me — a young woman. She prevents the door from closing with her foot. I reach her, and between the two of us, we pry that door open. A familiar chime goes off. Door opens for an eye-blink. I waste no time, I push her in and latch onto her back.


People inside yell at being shoved and squeezed even more. Somehow, by a miracle, I’ve made it. I don’t even care that my crotch was grinding into the woman I forced ahead of me. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t mind either. We’re too relieved to make it on the train. The door closes. The train moves.

I shudder as the a/c coats me with another layer of sweat. The woman, whose ass I’m grinding, can’t even protest because there isn’t enough space to adjust. And she knows it. She doesn’t turn her head. What’s the point?

But she’s got worse problems, like having to smell the armpit inches away from her face from a guy holding onto the ceiling bar. I’m glad it isn’t mine.



I try to give the woman as much space as possible, but that would put my ass into contact with the guy sandwiching me from behind. So I look up at the ceiling, pretend nothing is going on, even though I want to scream my head off.

At last the train stops. I walk out backwards. Once on the platform, I turn to run. As I do, I glimpse the woman I’ve been grinding. A part of me wants to apologize. No time. I have seconds to save my job. But I have to give her a second peek. To my surprise, she’s smiling, the kind that conveys shrugging more that flirtation. Sigh.

These are the moments — the lost moments — but perhaps the best moments. They make us keep our eyes open for the moments yet to come. Some call it hope. Others call it a wish. As many would call it yoga.

We lose more from lack of mindfulness than we do from lack of sleep. Rather than wonder how many other moments we’ve lost, mindfulness keeps our minds awake for the countless opportunities that await us. Mindfulness preempts regret.

Mindfulness is being in the moment — that moment when lovers stare into each other’s eyes and realize they alone exist, as if love were the only nutrient needed to live.


Warmest thanks to Integral Yoga Studios for supporting this article


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