So this week I had my nervous breakdown at the Rubin. What happens when you move to New York is you freak out about the exact same crap in more glamorous places.
Someone had set me off at school (quite unknowingly, and with every good intention, actually), and I think people on 18th Street could see waves of fury emanating from me as I walked. It was starting to snow, also, not that I gave a shit about that, I was way beyond that.
There was another spark, past the one that set me off (I never include what these things are, because it’s private, what a concept, because it’s not interesting, because it makes me sound like a whiner, all those things): I needed to look at a Buddha.
I don’t know where this came from, except perhaps the temple room at the Nelson, a space anyone back home knows is quiet, impressive without being intimidating, a high ceiling with a dark wood carved piece, taken from somewhere, far away where peace is all the time, brought to the art museum in the middle of North America. A huge painting facing you, faded in and out from time, featuring all kinds of figures you don’t understand, and the main sculpture in there is a Bodhisattva (not a Buddha at all actually), sitting elegantly, like Hey, I’ve got this. The sculpture is Guanyin, meaning “Observing the Cries of the World.”
It is usually quiet in there. There are long benches. You can even lie down in there, look up at the ceiling, look over at the Bodhissatva who is not going anywhere until all sentient beings are all right. Until the guards see you.
So I stormed out of school to the Rubin. The museum of Asian art. Which happens to be four blocks away.
I gave the lady my debit card to pay $15 to see the place for like 15 minutes. My debit card was rejected because I had paid the eye doctor with it and so I gave her my credit card and felt bad for both of us, mostly myself, but I figure also having people have their cards declined must be one of the ickiest parts of dealing with strangers’ money. I don’t know. I never have. Dealt with other people’s money.
Today someone said to me, “If you just had to have a job in New York, I would hook you up with my friend at Bloomingdale’s and you’d be set.” Can you imagine me working at Bloomingdale’s? All day shaking my head gently and saying, “You don’t really need that, do you? Material things won’t fix anything.”
The Rubin is set up in ovals around an atrium. It isn’t very big. I took the steps up, just hoping I could find a Buddha to look at, a place to sit and look at him.
Buddhism is good for insanity. I consider them my insanity experts. was feeling insane.
If anyone said anything to me, I was going to stab him.
I’ve been watching a lot of “Walking Dead,” and I feel like Michonne.
I found a Buddha, and a seat, and I was looking at his face, it was yellow, he was a Buddha of wealth, which makes no sense for me, and I heard the approach of yattering schoolchildren which was quite unfair I had just escaped the unstoppable yattering of schoolchildren (often, often, music to my ears and healing, but not just then, could people just leave me alone for a minute, just a minute, acoustically, and visually).
If I had had a sword, I would have cut each of those children in half.
This is why I don’t have a sword.
It is harder, in Manhattan, to get a moment alone. I thought, restaurants and bars usually have onesie bathrooms (schools and museums do not), that is where one should go to scream or cry or swing a sword around, buy a drink, buy a meal, borrow a bathroom.
This is pretty much the whole story. I gazed at a few other Buddhas and nothing was solved.
Have I taken rowdy kids to art museums and ruined other people’s days? Have I seen people walk faster to get away from us? Oh, goodness, yes. Almost every year I’ve taught I’ve dragged my kids to an art museum, that’s my thing.
I walked back to school.
We have this half hour we read with students. I took An Unfortunate Series of Events from the bookshelf in my room. I greeted all my students with preternatural kindness, the sort you only have when you don’t give a shit about anything, so why not.
I read Lemony Snicket, and I chuckled, and the kids next to me looked at me like I was crazy. “What? It’s a funny book. You’ve read it.” I was happy the book was about bad things happening to good people.
“Oh, my God. Ms Schurman.”
“She keeps laughing.”
I decided I wouldn’t reprimand anyone, no matter what, I would just read myself, they were relatively well behaved, all pretending to read and only whispering, at one point though I couldn’t help myself and looked hard at a kid who wasn’t reading and instead was opening my desk drawer. She got a squirt of hand sanitizer from the drawer and sat back down.
I had read half of An Unfortunate Series of Events, I told all the kids to have a nice weekend, and I had the next period off, so I went to a colleague’s room and talked like a sane person about what was upsetting me and she was very nice to me and I stopped wanting to cut anyone.
I went out and bought two slices of pizza from the regular guy, they know I don’t want the special even though I want two slices. “Can you believe this snow?” We shook our heads.
Photo: the sculpture from the Nelson, “Guanyin of the Southern Sea,” by pink_fish13.