This morning an old black woman say in front of me on the train. She smelled wretched; she had what my friend Mark had once called “a geriatric smell.” I did not move from my seat, mostly because there was nowhere to move to. I felt short of breath, as I frequently do, but the woman’s cloying smell was overwhelming and I could not catch my breath. I tried to just read my book, in which Thomas Merton was describing his surroundings on Perry St. in Greenwich 1939:

The air outside my window is quiet, and light hangs among the leaves and is soft and blue and warm. In one of the next houses I could hear pots in a kitchen, and water running from a tap, and I can hear the voices of kids. … This sunlight, this warm air, the sounds of the kitchen, speak of God’s goodness and His mercy. I can sit here all day, now, and think of that, and ask God to show me everywhere more and more signs of His mercy, and His goodness, and to help me regain my liberty. Peace.

Merton would later take vows as a Trappist monk.

I was breathing only through my mouth now, something I am unaccustomed to doing as I am so often short of breath. I chose not to complain within my mind to an imaginary listener, but instead to begin writing down my experience. This too was a change. As the train pulled in to Glenside where I work, I considered remaining on the train, to extend my experience. I chose not to, however, and went to work.