Whenever I describe the E train to my friends, I tell them: “When it’s good it’s great and when it’s bad it’s awful.” I moved to Queens in May. Prior to that I had never taken the E train in my entire four-year residence in NYC. Someone (who likely didn’t have to take the E on a regular basis) once said to me, “I love the E train!” Others have given me knowing looks when I intimate my commuting struggle.
When I moved to Queens I was so excited to be in a new place, exploring new parts of the city, and even to be taking a new train. I quickly learned that the E was one of the most unpredictable of all of the trains in New York. Sometimes it will run express and get you where you need to go within half an hour. Other times it will run express but get stuck multiple times along the way, extending what ought to be a straightforward trip into an hour long ordeal. Other times it will surprise you and run local and dispatch all chances of arriving to your destination on time.
When I think of my ex, my heart is both indescribably happy and indescribably sad. He was my first love. Perhaps the happiest memory of my life so far is the first time he kissed me—sitting on the futon in the living room of his apartment, a little tipsy, having just finished watching a nerdy sci-fi classic. Every moment of him is etched into my brain with perfect clarity: all the times he made me laugh, made me feel beautiful, made me forget my pain; and also, all of the times he made me cry, that he ignored me in public, shut me out, and every moment that he made me question who I am and what was wrong with me.
Every second we spent together was memorable, both the beautiful and the terrible. It’s in this way that he reminds me of the E train. When we were on track, we were SO on track. The times we spent together were incredible, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget them or cease to cherish them. He made me feel so strong when we were together; I was funny, and smart, and desired, and beautiful, and perfect. But when we weren’t together, trouble would creep up on us. He wouldn’t text back, or he would do something with his friends and not invite me, or I would feel depressed and ask to see him, only for him to tell me I was being needy. I don’t know what his roadblocks were, why there were delays on the track. Rather, I do know, but what they are is not as important as the fact that they existed and that I am neither responsible for fixing them nor capable of doing so.
Taking the E train and my ex also have in common the things I have learned from dealing with them: patience, giving grace, letting go of control, focusing on me while I wait, accepting things for what they are, adapting, and being grateful for the journey. I learned a lot by loving a person who wasn’t able to love me back to the same degree. It’s important to me that I don’t become jilted or emotionally unavailable like him because of the ways that he has hurt me (the same ways that someone hurt him before I came along); it’s important to me not to pass that pain along. It’s important to me to feel gratitude for the lovely things he did for me, things that were out of his comfort zone, because he cared for me in the only ways he knew how to. It’s also important for me to understand that it is not my fault that the E train (or my ex) does not run smoothly and that the only thing I am able to do while stuck in a rut is to work on making the most of my time.
Sometimes people stall out. Just like ridiculous and exasperating subway malfunctions, we don’t have the ability to change a thing no matter how much we would like to help or make things better. Being involved in these peoples’ lives makes them more conflicted and more frustrated, and this frustration creates emotional exhaustion in one’s own life. Some people are determined to remain stalled out, or just don’t know how to go forward. If you love this person, you must do the clichéd thing and let them go. Maybe one day they’ll get their act together, and maybe they won’t. You can’t worry about it. Hold out for that 4/5 train reliability—you deserve it.