My office is part of a bustling business district that’s built around an artificial lake. The lake adds some personality to what would otherwise be a boring collection of skyscrapers. That’s not quite true, though. There are some unique and interesting buildings around. My office tower, for example, is covered in plates of gold-hued glass. It’s not a good-looking building, in my opinion, but it catches the eye.
As I head downstairs for lunch, I’m greeted by sunshine filtering in through the lobby, a reminder and a warning that summer is almost upon us. A breeze fights to keep spring going a bit longer and is a welcome relief. There is plenty of movement outside, some people marching off to important meetings, others idling, taking a much needed break from the 8-hour treadmill. Bands of smokers turn the trashcans scattered around the area into chimneys. I navigate my way around them.
Over the past year, I had gotten into the habit of making my own lunch; the slower tempo of my previous job afforded me that luxury, but I had put that on hold while adjusting to my new responsibilities and longer commute. My present office area is designed for the busy employee, though, with a decent spread of restaurants, cafes and fast food joints to suit every lunchtime need. Frugal as I am about food (a result of many years of unemployment), I prefer to just grab a sandwich from a nearby convenience store.
In these two weeks, I’ve become a familiar face there, and the girl behind the counter greets me with a smile when I walk in. I return the smile, grab my lunch, and ponder what do to next. Should I strike up a conversation? It occurs to me that I can’t think of anything to say other than a bland comment on the weather, so I just pay and leave. Maybe we’ll talk tomorrow.
Sustenance in hand, I head for an empty bench facing the lake. On the other side stands an obsidian tower, black tinted glass gleaming in the sunlight, looming over me like a brutal overlord’s castle in a fantasy novel. Out past the cluster of buildings around me, I can see traffic zooming by rushing to and from work. But over here, there is serenity. If not for the people walking by in suits, I might even forget I’m still at work.
An unexpected guest shows up at today’s lunch proceedings: a stray cat. Its fur is black with streaks of white; somewhere a witch must be searching for her lost companion. The cat stares at a group of diners outside a nearby restaurant, a hunter out of its element. Its only prey are crumbs or discarded wrappers.
The cool breeze blowing across the lake is refreshing, its deep blue waters calming. But then I notice the empty plastic bottle floating on the surface and sigh. This is why we can’t have nice things. I turn my attention away from the bottle, not allowing it to detract from my peaceful little lunch.
There are other benches scattered around the area, each taken up by busy salespeople and executives hoping to grab a quick bite before jumping back into the grind. Some sit in groups, talking about work and life. A pair of Filipino women sit on the bench next to mine, having a rapid fire conversation in their native language. As far as I can tell, they’re discussing the secrets of the universe. Their conversation gets more animated, punctuated with bursts of laughter. I guess the universe has a sense of humor.
As lunchtime winds down, I pop the last bit of sandwich into my mouth and walk back to the office. People continue rushing to and fro. I wonder if any of them has taken a moment to look around, to appreciate the beauty that exists beyond monoliths of glass and concrete. Or are they all too busy planning for that next meeting? Would anyone notice or remember the mysterious black and white cat? Would anyone care?
I’m a bit disappointed to be in a closed space again, chained to a desk until the end of the day. It’s not so bad, though. I like the job that I’m doing now. But still, I find myself looking forward to that little window of time when I’m free of assignments and deadlines. A time when I can stand still while the world rushes from one place to the next.
A time of tranquility.