October 31, 2018
Long Island, New York
I checked the time on my phone, being careful to clear the notifications that came in while I slept to prevent myself from engaging with them. Emails, texts, Twitter interactions, and that annoying prompt from Google Drive that the memo app can’t backup, so I should purchase more storage. It could all wait a few more hours. I did notice a WhatsApp message from Lia, which stood out now that I’ve added a heart emoji to her contact entry. She said she was looking forward to coming over tonight. It was only our third date, but it was Halloween, my birthday was the next day, and I’d offered to cook her dinner. I was excited too.
I made my way downstairs and turned on the dimmer lights in the dining room, kitchen, and living room. I picked up my meditation mat and sandbag bolster and placed them angled toward the new gas fireplace, which I turned on with the remote. I opened the Plum Village meditation app and navigated to Thich Naht Hanh’s 21 minute guided “Calm/Ease” recording, and close my eyes. “Breathing in, I’m aware I’m breathing in…breathing out, I’m aware I’m breathing out. In…out…enjoy.”
I showered, had a cup of coffee while I knocked out a chapter in the book I was reading, got dressed, and headed out the door to bike to the train station. I took the express train to Jamaica then transferred to the express train to Penn Station.
I boarded the train at Jamaica at the exact place where our arrival at Penn is, on the part of the platform near the staircase closest to the uptown C/E subway entrance, so my walk between the two is short. This morning I didn’t hear the busking steel drums player whose Free Hugs sign always makes me smile.
The swarm of subway commuters isn’t the worst it’s ever been, but not the best either. I swiped my Metrocard at the turnstile and became one with the flow. Instead of getting on the E train in one of the rear cars, which would give me the shortest transfer to the uptown 6 and less of a walk to work, I funneled between the people who must have had similar plans. The other end of the platform is not nearly as crowded, and I waited for the C that always has plenty of room, rode it to the upper west side, and enjoyed a walk through Central Park.
My walk took me around the ball fields in the North Meadow, down a path that’s surrounded by morning dog walkers. Two dogs are barking and play-fighting with each other. One tried to turn away to escape but they both ended up tumbling down the hill, only to bounce right back up to chase a ball their trainer launched high in the air. The foliage was peaking: red, yellow, and brown colors. The leaves were starting to fall.
I noticed a photographer pointing his camera up underneath a hackberry tree. As I neared him he looked down and I asked, “Amazing in here today, right?” He shook his head in agreement. A big grin cut across his face. He checked his watch and said he’d been taking photos out here for a few hours, and was planning to stay for another hour. I asked if he posts his stuff online. He hands me a business card, “Sean Bell @shots_by_seanbell.”
As I continued on my path to work, I put on my earbuds and finished up the intro to today’s episode of the Intercepted Podcast. I could listen to Jeremy Scahill rant about just about anything.
My workday was busy but all I could think about was getting home and seeing Lia. I spent most of the morning exchanging emails and preparing for the next night. We were hosting one of our biggest annual events and my main task was drafting my boss’s remarks. Around noon I took a break and met up with a friend at an Italian coffee shop a few blocks away for a cappuccino.
Two back-to-back meetings in the afternoon, and then the day was gone. I backtracked my commute home in much the same way as in the morning – subway to Penn, express trains (transferring) at Jamaica), bike home from the station.
Trick-or-treaters interrupted the vegetable prep I was doing for a tofu stir fry. As I lay the soy cubes out to dry, the doorbell rang. When I opened the door, a shy girl dressed as Angelica from Pirates of the Caribbean couldn’t muster up the courage to say anything. I dropped a mini Twix and Milky Way into her bag and her mom shouted “Thank you!” from her sentry post on the sidewalk.
A few more doorbell rings and I was starting to get antsy for Lia’s arrival. I place the sliced pepper, onion, mushrooms, and zucchini in a bowl, then just as I finished coating the frying pan with olive oil, I saw Lia’s car pull up across the street. I opened the door before she was able to ring the bell, then as I invited her inside I also leaned in for a hug, awkwardly preventing her from accepting my invitation for a minute.
“Nobody I’ve dated has ever cooked me dinner,” Lia said. The tofu was poorly cooked, but the veggies were fine.
In the spirit of Halloween, I asked if she wants to go downstairs to watch a horror movie. “Is this the part where you torture and kill me?” Lia joked as we walk down the steps.
I put on Suspiria (the original) and we snuggled up on the futon. In the scene right after the title frame there is a blind man approaching the entrance to the ballet school. I commented on how it seems that whenever an actor is playing a blind character, their heads are always tilted up with their chin jutting out instead of their nose. Lia exclaimed, “I was literally thinking the exact same thing!” A little later in the film Lia said that the set reminded her of Twin Peaks. When I told her I’m a huge Twin Peaks fan, she could hardly contain her excitement.