A lot of the time, the subway smells like urine. Or the car I’m in does. I used to think I had to take it, just sit or stand there in the dark heat of the tunnel, my nostrils aflame with that smell that never quite goes away, no matter how many minutes you spend trying to get used to it.
Maybe I wanted to believe I had to suffer. Maybe I was trying to punish my nostrils for existing, or for being the very silly sorts of nostrils who thought they wanted to live in New York.
But something occurred to me today, as if god were speaking her greatest truth from above the sidewalk grates. If I don’t want to smell the urine, I don’t have to. I can step ten feet to my right or left on the platform. I can move to another car.
The doors opened. I hastily hopped to the platform, around a post, into the next car down.
I felt like I was beating the system, or at least using up a Get Out of Jail Free card. But maybe I just learned how to actually care for myself. Maybe stepping into a fresher-smelling subway car is just the sort of thing people do; people who like themselves and like living here.
Maybe self-care isn’t always about grand gestures, but about realizing that you can move to the next car, and then actually doing it.