seven o’clock in the city

There is something about the start of springtime in the city around seven o’clock. It’s in this early evening hour that I lug my tired body across town, briefcase slung over shoulder and feet stuffed into black ballet flats; their worn soles pound the pavement as I trudge toward home.  Between the exhaustion of replaying the day and considering what to do for dinner, I’m suddenly met with a soft breeze.  It brushes my cheeks like a gust of optimism as I round the corner onto Delancey, sweet and sensuous like a lover’s kiss hello.  My hair dips and flips as I cross Broad Street in wide strides; with each step, I can feel the grueling day begin to melt away.

I am in a vacuum now, where all of the sirens – the slamming doors and screaming children – are silenced and sucked out.  It doesn’t happen every day, not even every week.  It always happens unexpectedly – breezy, golden evenings such as this one – when I suddenly experience an acute awareness for all the small parts of the world around me that I too often take for granted.  Clarity comes in the short hours that fall between rush hour traffic and drunken dinner crowds; that magical hour when the city gets a chance to sigh; to rest her bones for just a moment.

And all that goes unappreciated – all that is clouded over through the rest of the day and the night – is now there to beautifully witness. The soft hum of the car engine as the light turns green; the slight screech of the brakes as the u-haul stops at the house with the “sold” sign out front; chirping birds the old man intently watches from a park bench;  clinking wine glasses between first date partners in the window seat of  the corner café.

My mornings are fueled by coffee and chaos; rushing to work with headphones blasting, racing the clock. I see nothing. I think nothing but getting there: to that job I can’t stand in that building I can’t stand at that desk I can’t stand.

It’s only now, as I meander my way down the cobblestone back streets of this city I call home, that I experience the calm.  There are children on tricycles; young artists with brooding eyes smoking cigarettes on front stoops; old married couples with silver hair, hands clasped and crinkled eyes from years of smiles together strolling to BYO’s. The sky is clear with the slightest hint of a sunset far off in the distance.  All the same people who share the same sidewalks with me every morning that I never really see until now.  Runners and grocery shoppers and businessmen and tourists. Store owners closing up shop, roommates sipping prosecco on Juliet balconies.

Now is the time for solace.  Anxiety that comes in the middle of the night is far enough away right now; the ringing of early morning alarm clocks are a distant concern.  Right now, the whole world feels warm and simple and good.  It’s just seven o’clock in the city, and I’m blessed to be alive and breathing in the air.

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