Woke up yesterday morning to a shooting pain in my right leg, no idea why. This morning found me hobbling to work in a particularly awkward fashion even more ungainly than is the norm, forced to slow down my usual brisk pace.
It felt like such exposure -- to weakness, to vulnerability, to visibility -- and made me miss the half-block walk from my old New York City apartment to the bus stop that would get me to work every day. It made me miss, too, the anonymity of the teeming streets there, where no one gives a second glance to a hobbling girl (this I know from experience).
I'm not sure anyone noticed here either, but when you're practically the only one walking out along the streets and there is absolutely no teeming to be seen, it's sometimes hard not to feel like the entire world is looking at you. Every car, every passer by.
It reminded me of all the times I shaved my head after having let it grow out. For the first few days immediately following the latest hair follicle massacre I was absolutely positive that people were staring as I got on the M4, walked along the A-train platform, traversed Canal on my way to Chinatown. I could feel their eyes, hear the whisper of turning heads trailing in my wake. And then, a couple days later, it would stop -- no more stares, rude or curious or otherwise; no more startled looks or averted gaze. But the thing is, of course, in a place the size of New York City it wasn't the fact of being around strangers that changed, it was me. Which means it was either all in my head in the first place and no one was ever staring, or people were still looking and I just stopped noticing.
I've thought about this now and again over the years; the ways in which we inhabit a real or imagined gaze, the ways in which we let this shape us.
And so I spent the awkward, painful walk to work this morning telling myself that even here in this not-New-York-City people surely have better things to do than gawk at a hobbling girl, and that this uncomfortable feeling of being exposed in my weakness must also be in my head.
I suppose I could have just called someone for a ride, but therein lies the McNeil stubbornness: if I can't damn well take care of myself, what business did I have moving out here?