Quintessential NYC moment

“Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something.” — Plato
We are on the subway. It is crowded, and late afternoon. Standing room only, which we’re claiming in the center of the car, both length- and width-wise.
Near one of the doors, there is a man.
He’s huge. My eyes come up to his Adam’s apple, probably, and he’s not skinny. He’s wearing a new, bright yellow, leather jacket that sets him out from the browns and blacks and grays of New York like a sign.
He’s preaching. It takes me awhile to see it through the crowd, but he’s got a bible in his left hand — the one he’s not using to steady himself on a rail. It, like he, is enormous and striking. He gestures with it, he balances himself with its weight, but he does not read from it; in this case, it’s his anchor, not his ship.
Everyone is listening.
Not… hearing the words. I don’t mean that. Even though his voice is strong and deep like a river, it cannot be made out at the other end of the car. They are listening to him speak — simply to the fact that he is making words, not what they are — at the same time, everyone is trying to act like they are not listening.
When the train comes to a station, the doors open and the conductor announces service changes for the weekend schedule. The preacher pauses, politely giving everyone time to hear.
The doors close, the train moves again, and he resumes (with a change in subject – I can hear that much); for the conductor he will pause, but he’ll willingly compete with the train and the white-noise roar of the tracks.
Dedicated? Crazy? Both? Unrelenting, certainly, even in the face of the concentrated not-listening of his standing-room-only audience.
There is another station. Another pause. He resumes, his subject changing again.
This time, it’s love.
This message, it gets through the not-listening.
He’s still a (possibly crazy) preacher, and still unstoppable in his delivery, and you can still only barely make out the words from less than ten feet away.
But you can hear him say ‘love’.
He says love like it’s his favorite word in the whole of Creation. He says love like it’s a secret cookie recipe. He says love like Barry White says love. He means it, even more than he means everything else.
As one person, the audience in the car smirks. A few crack a head-shaking smile. Two of us chuckle a bit and grin.
Then it’s business as usual, and the next stop is ours. We leave the preacher behind.
But the way he says ‘love’ stays with me.

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