My stairs are steep. They are narrow. I am wearing boots with a two-inch heel. As I pull my bags out the front door I eyeball them, and then I glance down those steep stairs. I wonder for just a moment if I can manage all three bags: the colossal duffel, the dense shoulder bag and the small lunch sack. No surprise that I am running late to the airport. No time to doubt my abilities, no sherpa to assist me, I shoulder the three bags and wobble slowly down the mountain. A neighbor on the second floor comes out her front door, looks up at me and says nothing. Ok, so maybe it's early, but she doesn't offer any help, doesn't offer a grimace to commiserate with me, if only to share in the pain by a turn of her lips. She just heads down the stairs, leading the way like a helpless guide. Continuing my downward spiral, just a little behind the nameless neighbor, I get down to the ground floor and make my way through the narrow hall towards the two front doors I must maneuver next. The first door you have to turn a handle and pull towards you. The second door, once you've made it through the first, has a large red button you must push (which then emits a warning buzz, which I've never quite understood) and then you pull the door in. The neighbor has made it through both doors, without a single glance back.
Exiting the complicated 2-door entry I stop on the street, confronted by the frigid air. The cold slices through me despite the heat I've just generated from the journey out the building. I decide not to put my gloves or hat on–the effort out the building already has me huffing and I think the heat is enough to take care of my extremities. Leaning down I pick up the handle to the giant duffel bag and begin the four block journey. As I pull it along I am slightly ashamed at the largeness of it, like it shouts to everyone that I don't know how to pack light. Three minutes later, proven dramatically wrong about heat spreading, I stop to put on my gloves and hat. The three minute exposure to the early morning wind is already too much; my hands are pink and stinging.
Walking again I can feel my torso throwing off more heat. I want to unzip my jacket. Again: foolish thought. As I near the station entrance, I mentally count off the steps remaining to boarding the train: down one flight of stairs, through the turnstile, wait on platform. Three more to go. I make it down the stairs without sideswiping any humans. Approaching the turnstile I realize there's no way we can all fit through. I drop the bag that feels as heavy as a dead horse, should I have ever felt the weight of a dead horse, and I ask the subway attendant what to do. She looks at me like I'm an idiot and says, "Swipe your card at any turnstile over there (pointing left), then walk through that gate over there (pointing right)." I do exactly as she instructs and make it to the platform just in time for an M train to pull up–it's not the train I need so I stand there and try to compose myself. I am sweating profusely and I feel weak.
As the M-train pulls away I look across the tracks to the other direction to see a J-train pulling up. That's when I realize I am on the wrong side of the tracks. Not only am I missing the train I need but I have unanticipated stairs ahead of me. I heft my bags up and onto my shoulders, move down a long flight of stairs, walk over to the other side and tread (slowly) up the final two flights of stairs to the correct platform. I throw my bags down, I rip off my leather jacket and I wonder to myself for the hundredth time: why didn't I take a cab?