Whenever I have a morning at work that makes me feel particularly unhinged, I try to escape down the street to a museum of art over my lunch hour. Sometimes I sit in the sculpture gardens and listen to the waterfalls; sometimes I sit on a concrete balustrade and soak in the sun. I usually always read.
Today the grass seemed especially inviting, so soft and new and green, and I happened to have my trench coat with me, which I could use as a blanket. I lay down on my stomach, ate my meatball sub from Subway, and read Love in the Time of Cholera.
I had attempted this novel before and failed. I have this theory that sometimes we’re not ready for certain books, and I definitely wasn’t ready for this one when I tried to read it a few years ago right after graduating from college. But I finished Sloane Crosley’s I Thought There’d Be Cake last night in the bathtub, and, this morning as I scanned my bookshelves, LTC practically jumped into my arms. Okay, I told it. We’ll try again.
So there I was lying, wondering who in the hell I was the last time I read these words, underlining such sentences as “The use of crutches had made his torso and arms as broad as a galley slave’s, but his defenseless legs looked like an orphan’s,” and writing in the margin next to it with black pen “dual personalities.” Jesus God, I thought, is it any wonder I put this book down last time? Back then I was still far too entrenched in reading books as an English Major rather than as a person, as if reading a novel were a test and I’d be scored based on my marginalia. This time, fully embracing my personhood, I underlined a couple of sentences after that in purple pen, “‘Damn fool,’ he said. ‘The worst was over.'” And wrote nothing next to it.
Because a popular exhibit is currently at this museum, busloads of schoolchildren are usually my unwitting companions during these lunch hours. Today, a group of what looked to be sixth graders lined up on the sidewalk ten feet away from me, preparing to board the bus that would take them back to school.
One boy yelled, “What are you reading?” I held up my book and yelled back, “Gabriel Garcia Marquez.” I guess he hadn’t expected me to answer, because he didn’t reply but simply stared back at me with a goofy grin.
A girl in line about twenty children ahead of the boy yelled, “Can I come read with you?” I looked at her and smiled, trying to convey to her how much I wished I could board the bus with her and be taken back to sixth grade.
Then, near the first boy who yelled, I heard some commotion. When I turned my head, I saw a shorter boy jumping up to see me over the retaining wall that encases the grassy lawn. I cocked my head, curious to see what he’d come up with.
He jumped again and said, while suspended in mid air, “I love you.”