Nothing tries to spoil a beautiful early morning in Manhattan like a woman yelling on the 6 train. She takes a seat beside me, her face pointed up toward her standing colleague, her mouth broadcasting something about work and funds and projects. She flips through her manilla folder filled with papers.
I am trying to read A Moveable Feast. Hemingway named it that because he considered Paris itself to be a moveable feast, an experience a man keeps with him his entire life. But I think it just shows his genius because the book itself is a moveable feast. It is a treasure I carry around in my bag with transportive properties beyond my grasp. My copy is old and worn, with notes inside from a previous owner’s trip to Germany. There are train directions, and something about the Museum of Modern Art. It is a tiny book, and it fits perfectly in my hands.
I'm still early in the book. I just got to the scene where Hemingway discovers this woman who runs a library out of her house. He is poor and doesn't have enough money to pay the membership fee, but she lets him take as many books as he wants anyway. He is touched by her kindness and goes home to tell his wife about what he has found. They have a simple conversation about their evening plans and she says to him, "And we'll never love anyone else but each other." And he says, "No. Never." She asks him how his writing went earlier in the day and he says he thinks it went all right. I think simply, this is the type of love I want.
But the woman is still yelling. I have put my earbuds in and am listening to Philip Glass at near-full volume and I can still hear her. Not even God drowns her out. I look over and see her papers with designs on them for a presentation. Her colleague has a brown leather briefcase. They are both professors. I hear them say words like "dean," "school," "courseload." It's not just her proximity or my countenance that makes her seem loud. She is actually just very, very loud. She seems to have forgotten the most basic lesson children learn: the value of quiet.
I read the same page over and over, but I'm not actually reading. Her voice is a barrier to the deepest part of my brain where literature belongs. Not wanting to do wrong by Hemingway, I close my book. I close my eyes. I paint a picture in my mind of the man I will one day love and the walks we will take along our version of the Seine. I let Philip's repetitive piano strokes fill my mind and serve as the soundtrack for barefoot dances along water's edge.
I open my eyes and see that my stop has arrived. I put my book back in my bag. I adjust my headphones and exit.
I realize it's been a few minutes since I heard her voice.
Once outside, I see that the morning is beautiful.
SEE: JOAN JONAS EXHIBIT AT GAVIN BROWN
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