At the end of a long day, when stepping across the threshold of my cozy apartment is my heart’s absolute greatest desire, the walk home, short as it is, can sometimes feel like a painfully eternal trek. The freezing cold air bites at my face and my fingertips feel as if they are only moments from lifelessness. I pace briskly, but can’t seem to get there fast enough. At times I even wonder, exhausted from New York City life—commuting and all the rest of it: “Shouldn’t I be done with this nonsense? In another town I’d have a car.” I think that after seventeen years, yes (and I think even Frank Sinatra would agree), I could make it anywhere. I wonder isn’t it time I trade the rat race in for a quieter, more peaceful existence. I even go as far as asking myself: “Why am I still here?”
On Mondays, it’s a residual high from my 7 o’clock spin class that keeps me from counting the number of steps I still have before reaching my block or questioning my life in New York. Despite the fatigue that inhabits me, my mind is off in some euphoric place after the 45-minute all-out blood and guts ride. It’s this class that gets me out of bed on Monday mornings as I dread the start of the workweek; this class, that I turn down all other Monday evening invitations for. Little can sooth my soul quite like it. But when a certain email caught my eye last week, while sifting through my inbox, without hesitation, I deemed that missing it every once in a blue moon certainly wouldn’t kill me.
The email was from a group I once took a class with called Sackett Street Writers Workshop. It was an invitation for a reading that they were hosting at an indie bookstore called BookCourt in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. Just like I was first drawn to Sackett Street for the cozy appeal of its classes, many of which take place in the teachers’ brownstone apartments, I was drawn to BookCourt, perhaps because of the neighborhood it’s located in, or its story as a little community bookseller that could.
So last week, when Monday rolled around, I nixed the spin class and instead, after work, took a detour to Cobble Hill for the event. Well, as I had imagined it would be, BookCourt turned out to be a dreamland—where every title in the wide yet carefully curated collection called my name; the kind of place (if you are a book lover) that you want to visit everyday, or move into, if bookstore owners allowed such a thing. I found my way to the back of the store, to the events space known as The Greenhouse. A group of about 40 people were seated in folding chairs, as Julia from Sackett Street, a woman I’d never met, but through emails, introduced the evening and brought up the first author.
There were four in total, including Julia herself, each reading an excerpt from a recently published or soon-to-be published piece of work. As it is any time when you have a bunch of writers in a room, each was different from the next, and with every one, I connected differently. What I saw as the common thread was that each one of these authors was such a seemingly regular person. And though yes, there was a obvious disparity that existed between myself and each of them—that they have published books and I don’t—I like to think that they started at the same place I did, with that goal in mind, that ache, that need.
At the end of the night, before leaving, after introducing myself to Julia, I went up to the counter in search of the last author’s book. As a treat to myself, and because I am a lover of paper books and because I desperately want to save the disappearing brick and mortar stores that sell them, I decided I would buy a copy. The book was ‘Dare Me‘, about high school cheerleaders—what a NY Times book review called “Heathers meets Fight Club good”. The author? Megan Abbott, a petite redhead with a big smile and contagious enthusiasm. I’d heard Julia mention Megan was the author of six novels, but her name was not familiar to me. But then at the counter, I saw another book next to Dare Me, with the same name, Megan Abbott stretched across the bottom of its watery blue cover. This one was called ‘The End of Everything’, and it was one I realized then and there, that I’d seen on numerous reading lists in the past few months. So of course, I had to buy it too. And I would have Megan, the author sign the both of them.
An hour later, when I climbed up the stairs from the subway to begin my long, short walk home, I recognized, though it wasn’t my typical Monday night post-spin class high, that I had a feeling of lightness inside me. It was a pleasant mix of happiness and inspiration. What a perfect creative evening it had been. I paced the broken sidewalk, the winter air fresh on my skin, recalling Julia and my conversation, when she talked about New York and its wealth of resources for writers. I shook my head in agreement again, smiled and said to myself, “Ah yes—this is why I’m still here.”