Sitting in the Old Town Bar, a quiet Saturday before the lunch-time rush. The bar is empty except for one woman. She's seated in the corner, reading the paper, like she sits there every day. Like she's been sitting in that same spot every day for the past 30 years.
She has gravitas. She could be a Susan Sontag--or someone who went to parties at Susan Sontag's apartment. I enjoy watching her read the paper. She does it well, peacefully and consciously. She looks up and around, then back down at the paper.
I look at her, then look away, up at the lamps over her head, at the ceiling over the lamps. It is a wondrous ceiling. Then I look back at the woman. She sips her brown drink, turns the newspaper page. All of it with gravitas.
I wish that all the bars of the city were filled with women like this one.
I get up to use the men's room, a room like few others, with a stained-glass ceiling, golden light, and urinals like marble monuments.
When I return to my booth, new people have come in to the bar. They drop their shopping bags and pick up their cell phones. They order white wine and commence their loud, boastful, complaining chatter.
They block my view of the woman. The atmosphere shifts. The peace is gone. It's over. But for a few moments, it was there.