Muted Morning

Today is a national holiday, which for a solid hour this morning meant a languid quiet I am not used to from living close to a decade in this city. It will get noisy later, with the fireworks, with the beer on the rooftop, the girl with the agonizingly loud laugh in the courtyard at three a.m., I know she will be out there, but this morning I walked out to find empty streets, people in the park still on benches sleeping. A quiet I’m unfamiliar with. There were no morning commuters, no clack of high heels in an urgent rush behind me because the next train must be made. No horn honks, no trucks backing up. No one asked me for change.

Broadway was vacant. My weekend writing spot (here, taken advantage of, and it’s not even a weekend) was dark, totally empty. For some minutes I had the whole place to myself, could have skipped and leaped through the empty desks of the loft space, twirled on the writing chairs, screamed out loud even… if I’d wanted to. I felt like the only person alive in the whole entire world.

Then downstairs, for my usual coffee/short story routine (i.e., I sip; I read; I ignore the crowds). I had the Starbucks to myself. I chose the one overlooking St. Mark’s Hotel, and watched the windows there for some time, wondering who was inside sleeping, or not sleeping. Not a peep on St. Mark’s Place. A single man dozed beneath the cube in the center of Astor Place. Another man stretched, readied his cart, cleaned up his bedroom on the sidewalk outside the Cooper Union. Not a yellow cab in sight. I sat on a frigid silver chair reading a story by Alice Munro set in the wilds of Canada. I’d like to go to Canada; if such a thing were possible, I might not come back. I read, crossed the empty intersection, felt the silent wind. My ears emptied of all sound, like I was deep underwater but found I could breathe down there longer than expected so I decided to stay.

It’s over now. There is the occasional honk. There are people typing. Coughs. Slurps. Cell phones. Bus motors. A car below with pumping bass. I had reached a peace that feels somewhat distant now—though I know it’s there, early mornings, down in the streets below. If I could find that exact moment when the parties have all ended but the work commute has not yet started, when the night people are collapsing and the morning people are not yet up, then, that moment, I’d like to go out walking then.

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