I dozed off. This is not unusual, but this time I dozed off on the train. That isn’t unusual either. But this time I was carrying too many valuable things in my bag. The thought of losing the bag, the thought of having it stolen scared me. Sure it would suck to lose the material things: the laptop, the tablet, the e-reader, the camera, and all those things. That would have sucked, for sure. But much worse is the contents, the insides of the materials. The photographs I’d taken, the things I’d written stored off on the laptop. Losing that material would have been devastating. I can’t afford to doze off in public.
It was just a split second, too (give or take another split second). I’m not even sure if anyone even noticed. Except that I dropped the book I was reading. Well, at that point it was just the book I was holding. I had my finger stuck in between the pages as a bookmark. I dozed off and the book fell through. Maybe if I had a tighter grip on the book it would have survived the moment? The lightest of touches fall through the fastest. One split moment you sense what you think is everything and the next moment it’s all gone. Oddly enough, it was the very fall of the book that woke me up. Gravity pulls through in split seconds, too. Or maybe it was the thought of losing the book? Maybe it was the slip that sparked my senses, and I awoke before the book hit the ground? I don’t know for sure. Everything happened so fast.
I finally got where I was going: the steps of the New York Public Library. The library was closed but it was the steps that I wanted. Nothing too exciting. I just wanted to finish reading this book. Not just the book, I wanted the sense of motion in my periphery and the cool breeze. I wanted the sounds of people talking. I wanted to watch the footsteps of lovers as they passed by. I wanted the ants to climb from the steps onto my shins and weave through the hairy jungle. Okay, I didn’t want this, but it would happen either way. What I did want was the unfailing presence of the pigeons who would always come by but never say hello.
Some lady came across the pillar from behind me, she was panting as if a couple of lions – a married pair – had been chasing her.
“Where is the entrance?” she said. The worried expression on her face changed every second, as if every second a piece of the sky had fallen.
“It’s right here,” I said, pointing to the three large doors behind us. She disappeared from my view, only to return after a few seconds. “It’s closed now,” I continued, standing up this time and following her as she pointed to the closed doors. In my previous times on the these steps I’d hear tourists complain about the lack of knobs on the doors.
“No, it can’t be closed. I have a class here at 6:30.”
It was 6:48 at this point. She was late to a class in a building that had already closed a while ago. The universe wasn’t being kind to her today. She scrolled through her phone to show me the time and I noticed ‘Mid-Manhattan Library.’
“This isn’t the building you’re looking for,” I told her and we walked down a few steps, “See the orange and red flags there?” I pointed across the street, “That’s the building you want.”
She thanked me with a look of relief and hurried down the steps. The sky was no longer falling and she navigated her way through the fallen pieces to the other side of the road. Late for certain, but some how she found the spot she wanted.
I went back to reading and people watching. On the street I could see tourists with too many selfie sticks. I could see tourists asking each other for directions. It’s sometimes hard to tell the tourists apart in this city. The lack of a selfie stick is a good start. The lack of a camera, even better. But even then. It’s hard to tell the tourists apart in this city sometimes. I wondered how much time the lady would have lost had she asked one of these tourists for directions instead. Whether she would have gotten where she wanted at all. I was the one she picked today, the universe wasn’t all that unkind.
I went back to what I’d come for.
I went back to reading.
I dozed off.