I’ve been very busy lately with edifying writerly matters such as finding the cheapest beer that’s still potable, watching Crime Story, and trying to master the art of traversing the Pulaski Bridge in the morning without having to stop reading Dubravka Ugresic.
Being an irrepressible nerd, I’ve always read during the walking parts of my commute — between trains, waiting for buses, walking from the subway exit to my job. Back in Florida, when I drove to work, I used to read at stoplights. But until last week I’d never tried reading while crossing the river on foot.
Thursday I left the house for work even later than usual. I was striding along, up over the bridge, whirling my face away from the road and toward the skyline whenever a bus came toward me (because I’ve started my day with mouthful of street gravel several times, and even my grandfather’s grits didn’t prepare me for the experience), when a man sped by on foot, his arm brushing me slightly.
He was engrossed in a book roughly six times the size of the Gutenberg Bible. Adjusting his glasses, he turned a page, and side-stepped a cyclist at once. Soon he was yards ahead of me.
To understand what happened next, you will have to trust me when I tell you that a Napoleon complex is a powerful and intoxicating thing. Particularly when abetted by rage issues. So while a normal person would’ve smiled and kept walking, I picked up my pace. This guy thinks he can pass me and bump me without apologizing just because I’m short and female and not reading, I thought. I’ll fucking show him.
I broke into a light sprint. While running, I reached into my bag and pulled out a book and opened it to the page where I’d stuck my paycheck in as a bookmark. (Not only was I going to catch him, I was going to be reading while I did it.)
The check tumbled out. It caught in the wind and fluttered there for a second. I reached for it just as it blew against a tall fence that shields the walkway from the dropoff to the creek. It hovered there briefly before the wind shifted and sent it flying back the way I had come. I chased it all the way down to the bridge entrance. There I retrieved it from a small puddle, wiped it on my pants, and started back toward Queens, not reading this time. The man and his book were just about out of sight by then.