Small Pleasures

In the last week I have experienced two of life’s great pleasures.

# 1: Being Covered With a Cozy Blanket While You Are Already Sleeping

It was Holly’s birthday and we had eaten a lot of pumpkin cheesecake after a large meal during which we were given a free chocolate dessert. We had been playing a game where we tried to thing of phrases in which the word with more syllables comes last, like, “come hell or high water,” but not like, “Jesus, Mary and Joseph.” Soon after, I passed out on the couch. Passing out on the couch and realizing you are going to stay there is also one of life’s great pleasures. You go from thinking you are going to have to take cabs and trains home to your house to realizing that you aren’t even going to brush your teeth or undress. Even the people who actually live in the place where you are passing out are going to travel further to get to bed. You, by virtue of passing out on the couch, are already in bed.

But it gets even better. Sometime even later in the already late night, I was momentarily awakened by a fluttering noise and a pleasant weight settling all around me. I remember rolling over and falling back into the fantastic kind of sleep I only get on someone else’s couch–like a perfect nap that lasts all night. When I woke up in the morning I found myself covered with a cozy, handmade quilt. Debra, Holly’s roommate, had come home from Jay-Z’s surprise birthday party (different story) and covered me with the warm, cozy quilt. It was so lovely to be covered with the warm, cozy quilt in the middle of the night. Such a feeling of security and warm coziness.

Then I experienced yet another one of life’s pleasures, which is waking up already dressed and ready to go. This can be less pleasureable depending on when your last shower was and what you did the night before, but thankfully I was fairly clean and free of any lingering smells one might acquire in the course of an evening. It was an altogether refreshing stay on the couch, except for the fact that I think it aggravated my sciatica, causing me to throw my back out during a routine move in yoga class later that day.

Did I mention it was only Holly’s twenty-sixth birthday and I am nearly a year younger than she is? Maybe it is good that I’m getting to the point where I consider being covered by a warm, cozy blanket worthy of mention. Things are starting to deteriorate for me at a very young age. On the upside, I would like to think that the sciatica is not my fault, i.e., not the result of any of my bad habits or vices, and therefore, I will be giving up none of them, and in fact adding cozy blankets to my list of addictions.

# 2: Running for and Making a Train

My day began and ended with a trainward sprint. I woke up fifteen minutes too late, enabling me to partake in one of life’s greatest small pleasures, which is dodging through a crowded, echoey train station. I grew up passing through vile, festering, Penn Station, which has terrible acoustics and feels like a fallout shelter. I sieze any opportunity to race to catch a Metro-North train, which instead places the dramatic event in the far more scenic and cathedral-like Grand Central Station. This privilege cost me an extra $3 on the train and was worth every penny.

When the train arrived in at my stop in Yonkers I was totally unprepared and spread out over three seats in the middle of the car, gazing at the Hudson River. I bolted upright, gathered myself and sprinted off down the aisle, forgetting that my forward running motion would cause a side-to-side swinging motion on the part of my heavy shoulder bag. As the conductor started to announce the next stop and the bell started to ring, I heard a loud “thump!” and an unpleasantly surprised, “Jesus Christ!” behind me. I had clocked a seated passenger in the head with my wildly swinging bag. “I’m SO SORRY,” I shouted, flinging myself in the direction of the closing train doors and barely clearing them. I stood on the platform, biting my lip and ducking my head to see if I could make an apologetic face at the woman I had clocked. I was embarrassed and a little shamed. But then something marvelous happened. The train pulled away and I realized I’d probably never see her again.

I had come to Westchester on both buisness and family matters. I wish I could say that my family is my business and that I am in fact connected, but this is not the case. My family are all involved in various noble service professions and I had come to see if we could find a convergence in our mafia of social service. After spending the afternoon at my aunt’s nonprofit, I spent the evening dining with the Westchester contingent of my clan (paternal side). My clan has two Westchester contingents, both conveniently located straight up the Hudson River, both lovely to visit.

It was a lovely visit. Another one of life’s pleasures I am constantly rediscovering is spending time with your family. My eight-year-old cousin and I started designing a line of merchandise we are going to make to celebrate the weirdness of our family. Then we ordered in sushi and my uncle got us those super-special rolls I’m always too cheap to get, that are everything good smoked or fried and wrapped in everything else good. They were delicious. Then my ten-year-old cousin came home from his breakdancing class and demonstrated his moves for us. Then we all ate dessert from the kids’ Halloween candy stash. Then the kids took baths and the little one put on fuzzy pajamas and we discussed scalp sensitivity while my aunt combed her hair.

The kids went to bed and I stayed to watch The West Wing with my aunt and uncle. I had forgotten what quality television The West Wing was. This episode was particularly gripping. It seems like everyone wants Josh to run their campaign in the upcoming election. And Alan Alda–Alan Alda! Hawkeye!–is going to play the conservative-with-integrity. My aunt said that they should just continue the show after Martin Sheen’s term ends, with a Republican president with some shred of integrity, and that would be fantasy world enough. We agreed that The West Wing has become almost too painful of a fantasy world since the Moron Puppet took office.

Then my aunt and uncle and I discussed our varying attitudes toward time and lateness. My aunt and I seemed to share the same attitude, which is “why motivate in any direction unless it’s an absolute emergency?” I was glad to find out that someone else approaches time this way. “If I have to leave at 7:45,” my aunt said, “at 7:44 I’ll think, okay, I still have time. Then at 7:45, I’ll say to the kids, ‘It’s 7:45! We have to go! We have to make the bus!”

“Yes,” I agreed. “I hate to abandon what I’m doing until it’s absolutely necessary, and I enjoy turning ordinary tasks like making the bus into suspenseful adventures.”

My uncle pointed out that it was about the become a suspenseful adventure to get me to the next train back to New York. My aunt and I got into the station wagon to go to the station. When we got to the station, I was suddenly confused. Many times, when I’ve taken a inbound train from Westchester late in the evening, they’ve been single-tracked on the usually outbound track. “Is this the right side?” I wondered.

“It is,” said my aunt. “Isn’t it? Now I’m confused.” She started to turn the car around but just then I saw the train approaching from the north, on the side we were on. “Run, Emily, run!” exclaimed my aunt.

I ran. The trains late at night are shorter and I was at the back end of the platform. It was wheezing to a stop and the last car was tens, if not dozens of yards ahead. I held my anti-Bush-buttoned bag steady with one hand and waved wildly at my aunt over my head with the other hand, sprinting for the now-opening doors of the Metro-North train. As I poured on the last bit of speed I didn’t even know I had, I heard something clatter from my bag. I looked back, just as I lunged inside the train, and saw the tube of Arnica ointment I had been using to treat my sore back lying on the platform. But the sprint had rejuvenated me. My back no longer hurt. I was young again, reborn! The doors closed and the train headed down the Hudson, back to New York City.

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