You Mean Nothing To Me, But You Mean Everything To Them

February 11th 2013

Story originally written and experienced: April 2nd 2012


I never recognize a single person. 

 But that’s normal.

On the subways.

In a store.

Down the street.

Just a lot of strangers, you know?

But they’re not strangers to everyone. 

In fact, maybe the person who’s sitting next to me on the train, standing in the same shoe aisle, sharing a cross walk, or mutually standing in line for the world’s best hot chocolate at City Bakery – would be completely recognizable to someone else.

And let’ say this person was recognized.

And the person who recognized them was really happy.

Or maybe their heart would


Or maybe. Just maybe. They’d turn around, and go the complete << opposite way.

Let me explain.

The night really wasn’t’ anything spectacular. But it was great in the very simplest way. 2 friends, Leah and I relaxing on her upper west side abode with two cups of water in hand and a shared blanket as she explained to me how she knew Neal lived just a    few    blocks      away       with his new girlfriend, but she couldn’t help but feel just a little more anxious every time she approached their mutual street corner. And how strange it was, that anyone else who shared this street corner with him would never, ever have any idea, that they were abby-roading across the street with someone else’s emotional time bomb.

And then there was this time at the airport. And I’m sitting next to this guy. In a uniform. And consequently enough he happened to be on both connecting flights with a shared final destination.

We didn’t talk.

I just noticed his continued presence, that’s all. At the Dallas food court – on the plane 3 aisles away – in the seating area by gate A32. And I only noticed it because I thought it was so strange that he was on both connecting flights with one shared final destination.

But he didn’t mean anything to me.

I didn’t even know him. And as we exited >>> La Guardia airport at 8:34 p.m. and rolled our carry ons within a 20 foot  distance              between each             other, I witnessed a woman on the other side of the security line, completely melt at the very sight of him.


It was his mother. And she was his son. That she hadn’t seen, in almost 2 years. And I only knew this because she was crying these words into his shoulder as I was on my way to baggage claim. And I couldn’t help  but  think how unfair it was that I shared the last 8 hours with this man, that I wish I could have given to her instead. Because he meant nothing to me, but everything to her.

I’m going to tell you about this woman. In my neighborhood. She wears a tattered long sleeve shirt, cable knit bandana, torn up tennis shoes and a big bag of trash, weighing on her shoulders everywhere she goes. She screams at the top of her lungs most mornings between 5-7a.m. She spits on people. She doesn’t have a home. She sits on my doorstep from time to time and tells me I’m beautiful every time I reach for my keys.

neighborhood banshee

She scares me, a lot.

But she interests me even more. And sometimes when I walk home and I see her body deep into the neighborhood dumpster or talking to herself in a telephone booth 2 blocks away, I can’t help but think that maybe, just maybe, she has a mother, a sibling, an old friend or maybe even a child who is wondering where she is, and what she’s doing now.

But I know. 

Where she is. And what she’s doing now. But it doesn’t really mean much to me, but it means everything to the people who are looking for her. And I kind of wish, in some way that I could tell them about her. Just because I feel like it makes more sense. And then realizing again that screaming, spitting and complimenting in anonymous company might just be exactly what she wants.

And then there’s me.

And I’m sitting on this train the other day. And I’m talking to my friend. And I’m telling him about my brother.

About the brother I’ve never met.

And who has never met me. But wants to meet me. Who has asked to meet me. Several times.

Because once he realized I existed, after all these years.

He just wanted to see what I look like. And who I am as a person. And who his sister is.

And explain to me in person. Why it is we’ve never met.

And to the person holding the railing nearby and eaves dropping on my conversation, I know they can hear me. And that’s okay. Because I’ll never see them again, and if I do we’d never recognize each other. And that’s sort of the beauty of it. But for a second they know a little bit. They know they’re standing 2 feet away from someone that possesses the facial features, the personality and the shared family that her long lost brother only wishes he could see. And she wishes she could see his too.  And how that person, by  the railing, felt so strange to be so close to someone that her brother would pay gold to see. And how I’d pay the person standing next to my brother at the grocery store somewhere out there the exact same amount. But how each of those people, in each one of our locations, get that privilege for free. But it doesn’t mean anything to them, but it means everything to me.

And it’s kind of a cool thought isn’t it? To think that every day we’re

On the subways.

In a store.

Down the street.

in the company of someone else’s emotional time bomb, military absent child, greatly missed mom or even long lost brother. And we don’t even know it. And how cool it is to just for a second, put a meaning behind the people who anonymously share common places with you

On the subways.

In a store.

Down the street.

Because they might not mean anything to you, but they mean everything to them.