I always take a book with me, no matter where I’m going or for how short a time. I simply hate leaving the house without a book. I think the reason for this is mostly a fear that I’ve developed over the years – a fear of boredom. I bring a book with me wherever I go so that if, by some chance, I need to wait at a bus station or for a friend or for something unexpected – well, I’ll have something to immerse myself in. Some people can find a hundred ways to occupy themselves with their cellphones. Some people can file their nails for an hour or count how many red cars go by. I can do those things too, but I simply would prefer to have a book.
Still, there have been times when my fear of boredom has been alleviated by the fact that I can, surprisingly, entertain myself with my own thoughts fairly well. Last week, for instance, I was taking a long bus ride and I began to grow nauseous while reading. I put my book on my lap and stared out the window, trying to calm my roiling stomach and concentrate on my breathing. Soon I found myself engaged in memories and imagined conversations and in musings about this or that, while also enjoying the view and trying to invent details or stories to add to what I saw.
Boredom, I’ve discovered, can be quite pleasant at times.
There are thousands upon thousands of cities in the world, and all differ. Their sizes vary – some are small, some are large. Some differ in their demographic – more men than women or more citizens above a certain age and so on. They differ in their architecture – some are entirely new and modern and some have areas dating back hundreds of years. But all cities look, sound and feel exactly the same in that quiet moment right before dawn.
No matter what city it is, in that unclear light, before the sun peeps over the horizon, they will be quiet. Quieter than any other moment of the night. Those who work and live by day aren’t yet awake or are still in their homes, and those who live by night have already finished their outings or their work and have gone home. The streets are almost completely bare of people, and the lone car that whooshes past seems to be an intruder, much too loud and intrusive for this quiet moment.
All cities look the same during that small space of time – it is the only time any city is truly sleeping, resting, gathering its strength for another day and night of bustle and work and noise. It is breathtaking- the clear air, free of smog or smoke; the absolute peace that permeates every road and sidewalk and building; the utter and undeniable feeling of being between. Between the night and the day, between breaths, between the very phases of being that make up any city.
It is wonderful, being awake when the city sleeps.