Newbury street, early January. Blindingly cold. 5:30 PM. Already dark.
A bookstore is the warmest place in the world on a winter night, and this one is lit bright against it.
Inside, half off calendars and stocking stuffers, self help books for every resolution, toys and games and stickers and tote bags that say “I’m from Boston”. And endless, endless books.
An overwhelming cacophony. I set out to get lost.
It’s hard, because others had the same idea, and every corner and hideaway is occupied by some other wanderer looking to warm up.
I am about to give up but I see books by a poet I like in the corner, hidden behind a rack of mystery novels.
That, I decide, is my spot.
I curl up, pulling off my coat and hat and scarf, laying them next to me. I feel lighter without their dead weight.
As soon as I settle, a wave of smell hits me squarely.
A kitchen nearby, maybe through a hallway. Someplace hot and loud and very, very crowded.
And then the voices, speaking the Spanish I haven’t heard since I left California a week ago.
Laughter and jesting, the occasional yell.
I can’t catch all the individual words and I don’t try to—it’s not my conversation anyway.
But the voices are comforting in an unexpected way.
They show me something remarkable—that every place is a universe all on its own, with lives running against one another, colliding, weaving through narrow hallways in old brownstones, through crisp white pages and along dusty shelves.
Worlds among worlds.
I wonder as I walk out of the bookshop and along the street about what each old building contains. How many hopes and minor disappointments are held in each narrow brownstone? How many different paths can one front door lead to?
A city is really humanity stacked on top of itself, layered until individuals become just parts of a whole.
6:00 PM, a half hour later, still dark.
Lights twinkle in the trees.
The night seems warmer.