It is early, I need to move, my brain resists the usual routine; I note the sky and the temperature and grab a bill from the dresser. I opt for a walk to the nearest coffee shop.
It is rare that I spring for the preposterous price of six dollars. Instead, I cherrypick articles online at will. But I note that I’m hungry for something to quell my restlessness: the texture of newsprint, its ink on my fingertips, the deepest breathing that comes with hours pouring through cured words, meticulous editing, the heft of investigation, editorials, exposition.
There is the sensation of time slowing, which I know to be illusion. There is the sensation that I am young, which I know to be a lie.
* * *
I note the absence of walkers: decay is dismissed along this barren incline, in this quarter mile abandoned to the shadows of a high-speed overpass, in these blocks devoid of commercial ventures.
I note the sounds of steps behind me. I ball my hands into fists. I scan distances, light sources, oncoming cars.
I wear jeans and a hoodie with only a ten in my pocket and no reason to think he wants to harm me. This is the urban woman’s habit of a lifetime: instinct and vigilance.
My gait quickens as does his and he passes. I reach a turn where traffic zips by. I uncurl my fingers and push my body up the last of the hill to my destination. The air is cool, but I am perspiring.
* * *
Standing in line I note the readers and the observers: most are consuming online and consumption strikes me as a tailor-made term. Several sip overpriced coffees. One looks around as I do – absorbing, recording, memorizing details.
I am her mirror. She is mine.
A 40-something woman with tousled auburn tresses and a black scarf leans over her newspaper. She is lovely. She is taking her time.
* * *
It is all downhill and I recognize the pull in my calf that signals how easily I find myself out of shape. The paper is tucked under my arm. A compact figure is approaching. I note the lips are red, the hair is short and dark, the forehead is deeply lined. She wears a beige purse slung around her neck, and carries a small pink weight in each hand as she smiles, nods, and briskly passes.
I note her energy and her colors, the face that suggests she is older than I am though her speed tells me she’s younger. Or simply stronger.
* * *
The house is quiet and I start a pot of French Roast. I scratch the duties of the day. I settle in with the Times.
I tell myself that fear is an illusion, that fearlessness is a cover, that the body pokes fun at each while the mind argues both sides of the divide. I tell myself there is only so much time; there is uphill and downhill and uphill again, alternating in the morning’s tossing of the dice and every stretch of the unknown.
* * *
Articles of interest from the Sunday Times: