Sunlight streamed into my room this morning. I squinted at the oversized clock that hangs on the wall; the red hands pointed in the ballpark of nine and seven. I panicked. 8:35?!Oh, sweet Jesus. I'm late. To my temp job.
But myopia's tricky like that: Little hands become big hands; hours become minutes. It was actually only 6:42, six minutes before my alarm was set to go off. Panic turned to annoyance. Six minutes wasted. Grumble.
An hour later, I closed the front door behind me, begging Emaline not to take another dump in an unfortunate location. (Last night, I came home from choir rehearsal and found a really glorious gift from her on my sofa. She'd somehow managed to shut the door to the room with her litterbox; clearly the only piece of soft furniture I own was the next best option. Hardwood? That would be far too neat.) Across the street, I pushed through the turnstile and surged up the escalator with a small mob of other Lincoln Square commuters, armed with their full-length North Face jackets, massive coffees and RedEye newspapers. Ill equipped with only one of the three, I scuttled to my seat and poked idly at my iPhone for the entire ride downtown. People watching isn't much fun during the morning commute on the Brown Line — everyone is more or less a zombie, or dead set on making it to the next level of Angry Birds — unless you're into watching some DePaul kid wearing tattered jeans and a coin purse of a handbag stumble into you every 40 seconds. Then it's fantastic. Ah, I wear the disgruntled, not-a-morning-person commuter look so well.
Except that I so am. A morning person, I mean.
The woman taking orders at Starbucks was singing when I walked in. She's a morning person, too, and she knows what all her regulars like to drink. She sang along between orders to the Al Green song playing over the din of the espresso machine, joking with the man in front of me in line that she'd finally found some decent music mixed in with the other stuff. The line was at least ten deep, nearly out the door in the miniature matchbox café that overlooked the Chicago River, but my drink was ready just a few seconds after I'd paid, and I was out the door with my soy. My soy chai. My grande, soy, extra-hot, no-water, no-foam, five-pump chai. Yeah. I'm working this week and next in an office on the 12th floor of a building across the river from the Tribune Tower and kitty-corner from the Wrigley Building, settled into the intern's cube with a lifetime supply of red pens and Post-It notes. The job itself isn't…well, it pays the bills. But I'm part of the pulse of the city again, if only for a couple of weeks. I haven't worked downtown since New York. I haven't quite fallen in step with everyone else just yet, but at least I'm there. Here. My life lately has felt a little like the scene from Amélie where she leads a blind man by the elbow around her little corner of Paris, describing everything she sees in brilliant Poulainesque detail — my favorite part is the baby looking at the dog gazing at the chickens in the window of the butcher shop. There's no way the man could ever absorb more than the tiniest bit of what she's told him, after a lifetime of isolation and darkness, but he's enchanted all the same by her. By the sheer magic of it. Every day this week, I've taken a different route fro
m the train to the building. There's so much to see along that half-mile, so much I've never needed to notice before as I rushed from point A to point B. This week, I'm still rushing, but it matters that just a little bit more. I want to absorb it just a little bit more.