An unshaven man with wildly strewn hair is slumped in the all-night diner over a dish of spaghetti shoveling forkfuls of the stuff into his mouth. Other than that, the restaurant is empty. Holidays turn this college community into a ghost town. It isn’t as depressing as it sounds – days like today are relief to those of us who remain.
The 20 degree weather feels more invigorating than cold. The iced-over sidewalk makes the world appear brighter. There is more space to move around – there seems to be more time.
I arrive at the library at noon and I still have parking spaces to choose from.
One of my friends is lounging on the comfortable chairs on the ground floor with stacks of printouts spread across the coffee table. He has time to talk for a change, and so do I. We catch up on the projects we have been working on and share tips for research. We also catch up on who we are as people – where our families are, how we are fairing in life. This leisurely conversation would be unimaginable a week ago.
When people are scarce those who remain seem to matter more. There seem to be more dimensions to all of our lives. There is a chance to savor personalities. We slow down enough to see and hear each other for a change.
Not far from where we are the malls are jammed with holiday shoppers. A driver impatiently honks as the car in front of him waits for an opening in the parking lot. A woman looks over the rim of her glasses and scowls at a teenager who muscles his way in line in front of her.
The final sprint to the Christmas finish line has begun.