My feet skid on the thin crust of sidewalk ice as I walk briskly to a nearby café; the cold morning air bites my cheeks. My breath forms clouds of mist as I exhale. Out of the corner of my eye, I catch a hazy reflection of myself (flash of green coat, purple hat) in the shining front glass of a used book store. The dark window of a butcher’s shop hints of hanging cured meats, salty jars of olives. An elderly woman decked out in fur leads a tiny, delicate lapdog on a bright pink leash as she crosses the street, a newspaper tucked under her arm. Cars honk; a bus rushes by in a jittery haze of exhaust. The sky is blue and the sun gleams off car roofs. The café is a few blocks away from my new apartment. I arrive in a warm rush of heat, the familiar rhythm of Nick Drake humming in the background.
I sit in a cozy window seat, a mug of tea steaming next to my computer. A young hipster in her funky vintage wear is to one side; an older, gray haired man to the other, dark bulky glasses perch on his thin nose. My table moves in miniscule rocks as I change position; the legs are not quite even. I read over what I’ve typed and sigh. Detailed descriptions jump to my fingertips unbidden these days, a bubbling fountain of adjectival observation. It’s been difficult to push myself away from it in the last week; perhaps it is my attempt to feel at home.
I have officially moved out of Boston, away from the lengthy convalescent baggage of my accident. I now inhabit a small, often sunny, sometimes freezing little apartment on the top floor of a creaky old brownstone in Brooklyn. And I find myself constantly, keenly observing what is around me. [This morning I carefully noticed that the burnished cream radiator next to my bed stands at a slightly defiant angle; its bulk protests the small grains of chipping paint, the unattainable brush of morning light, the red wall screaming behind its back.] I am decidedly overwhelmed by this move; in hopes of making some sense of the transition I give full concentration to my immediate surroundings.
A little girl, her straight brown hair tied in floppy pigtails, hops on one foot by my table. Her pink corduroy dress bounces around the white socks at her ankles with each bounding leap. She seems determined to land in the center of each large square tile on the floor of the café. She frantically hurries her movements as her mother calls her name sternly. This isn’t a playground! I smile to myself behind the screen of my laptop. A large part of me would like to get up and join the cheerfully hopping girl, holding her hand and giggling as we pounce all over the coffee shop in carefree abandon. This is the part of me that also thinks spending every day from now to eternity at the MET, blissfully ignoring the pressing matter of unemployment, is a wonderful idea. It’s the one that feels blindsided by my jump to the Real World, a currently planless New York existence. But with the endless number of possibilities this city offers, I can appease all of my parts and look at it as a playground of sorts. It’s different than the tiles on the café floor, but still with plenty of room for hopping about.
I stand to pack up my things; it is time to meet a friend for lunch.