She was dark skinned with an unassuming face and short brown hair. She wore coral shorts with her legs holding on to a standing bike. She was sitting in between two other passengers.
I remember the air conditioning blasting on the subway that day, and New Yorkers were doing what they did best, minding their own business. I noticed this woman sniffling across from me, which I presumed was the the result of allergies or the cold.
Then I noticed her watery eyes and I kept watching out of curiosity. She held her gaze steadily in front of her, fixed on one spot, concentrated. You could just tell she was trying so hard not to cry. But it was useless, because tears started falling down her face. She wiped them up quickly, looked around, and hoped no one saw her. But it was too late. I had noticed, and everyone else sitting around her noticed. Soon enough, her eyes welled up again, and this time she just gave up. She let herself cry. She couldn’t fight it anymore.
No one knew what to do. She was crying with so much pain, it seemed like the best thing to do was to just let her cry. She must’ve been holding them back for a while. We all felt her pain and we all recognized ourselves in her at that moment.
I wondered what this woman was going through. What causes someone to breakdown in the middle of a subway ride? Maybe she just lost someone really important? A family member, a lover, or a dear friend? I will never know, but I truly admired her strength and courage to be so vulnerable in front of a cart full of strangers.
Right before I left, I saw a man get up and handed her tissues. He didn’t say anything but just smiled, and she looked up, smiled, and accepted the tissues.
She was the bravest woman I’ve ever seen on the New York subway.