Yesterday I had some time to kill in midtown. I’d rushed up to go to a doctor’s appointment (I am finally ear infection-free!) and had a little over an hour before I was meeting my friend for dinner. Sometimes when I have time and don’t know what to do with myself, I wander, especially if it means I can chat with my mom on the phone, or catch up with a friend.
But yesterday I had a book I was knee-deep in and loving (this one, in case you’re curious) and so I needed to find a spot to read. There are a few outdoor public spaces with benches in that part of town, but it wasn’t quite warm enough. Also, I wanted hot chocolate. I peeked into the café at Barnes and Noble, but didn’t see a free table, so I went into the atrium of the building B&N is in and headed for a café.
My cocoa was a little small for the $3.50 they charged me, but it tasted good, and there were chairs nearby in the atrium. I sank into one and started reading, totally absorbed.
Absorbed, that is, until a tiny girl toddled by looking at me. Her parents were walking ahead of her, pushing the stroller and urging her on, but she walked at her own pace and stopped to stare at me and the man at the next table. I smiled and waved at her, and after a few moments, she smiled back, and even looked back to smile again before her parents finally got her to keep going. The man at the next table grinned at me and said something about how I’d gotten her to smile, and I nodded and smiled back and returned to my book.
The next time I came up for air, a different guy was sitting there and the barista from the café was closing up and starting to take the chairs in. The guy and I looked at each other, shrugged, and waited a few more minutes until the barista apologetically told us we needed to move. I still had another fifteen or twenty minutes till my dinner, so I wandered over to another atrium nearby, one with tables that stay out at all times, and I sank back into my book until my friend walked up beside me. I had ten pages left, so I marked my spot and saved them for the subway ride home later on. We went for dinner at a diner and talked work and life and relationships and I was a little too tired and scattered, but with a good friend, that doesn’t matter.
It’s been a busy week for me at work and so I’ve spent a lot of my time at home decompressing – when I wasn’t getting things done. But it’s nice to know that I can still lose myself in a book, even in the middle of Manhattan on a weekday evening, and then come back to myself to have small, friendly interactions with strangers and a thoughtful conversation with a friend.
And tomorrow’s Friday!