You bid farewell to your cat and wonder what he does during the hours when you're at work, home alone. You wish you could find out by being there with him all day. You'd lay on the couch with him tucked into the crook of your arm and watch old foreign movies, snacking on dried fruit covered with chili powder and cereal directly from the box. But instead the day greets you by almost blinding you with its brightness, and you curse whatever misfortune that's lead you to this life of day-to-day drudgery.
You've gotten into the habit of applying your make-up in the car on the 101 freeway, despite your better judgement. By the time you pass the Vermont exit, your concealer is dotted below your eyes - a vain attempt to cover the dark circles that you inherited from your grandmother. Once you've passed the Alvarado off-ramp your face has been lightly dusted with powder, and your obvious tiredness begins to camouflage. A quick swirl of blush over your cheeks, your eyelashes curled at the stop light off your exit that never fails to be red, and a swipe of mascara once you've parked your car in the garage completes the transformation. You are no longer the girl you were when you left your apartment twenty minutes earlier.
You're now the girl whose desk everyone passes on their way to their larger offices, who you give a polite "morning!" to, although some ignore you altogether. You're the girl who transfers their calls, faxes their important memos, and diligently prepares their mailings to assure a prompt turn-around. You're not a writer to them - they don't care about the various projects you're working on, and frankly, you wouldn't want them to know about them even if they did care...your projects are the "real you" and you like to keep that guarded. They don't know about the wonderful, talented friends you hold so very dear, or the fun you have with those friends whenever you're not behind that desk, thirty-something floors up in an expensive high rise building downtown.
Just when you think you can't take it anymore, can't take the polite and sometimes not-so-polite requests from these people you work with, hours after you first, and even your second cup of black coffee, it's lunchtime, and you're left to your own devices for an entire hour. You're a girl who likes routine, who takes comfort in secret places like you once did in the hallway closet under the stairs in the home you grew up in - a spot you used to spend hours reading in as a child, where you escaped when your life started to become unreliable and your youth treacherous.
So you go to one of your few spots, walking distance from your office, but miles away in terms of settings. During the summer you bask in the heat and delight in the small beads of sweat that form under your respectable business wear - like rebellious children sneaking onto forbidden turf - enjoying the alternative to the constant air conditioning of your office. During the winter there are less people around, but it's cold so you retreat to one of your favorite hiding places in the beautiful public library. You feel a sense of kinship with this stunning old structure. You feel a sense of greedy ownership of the place, even though you know it's wrong.
Once settled in, with whatever homemade (or purchased, on rare occasions) lunch you have with you, you indulge in one of your most treasured activities. It's something you love with a force so strong it overwhelms you sometimes. You can't imagine how in the world there are people who don't get any pleasure from this, because without it, you'd surely wither into something like an old fallen leaf and be blown away. It's one of the strongest forces in your life, one of the things that compels you forward: your friends, your family, writing, your precious Siamese cat who's been with you throughout the past few difficult years...and reading. Your oldest comfort, your most treasured possession: losing yourself in a book.