mornings

Mornings are easier than I expected. The first time I had to push off the comforter and leave the warmth of my bed, I braced myself for the miserable chill. But when my feet hit the floor, it wasn't that bad. My apartment sits on a stack of eleven others, and under another two. I like to think we're all keeping one another warm, like bricks walling off the wind.

I've placed two small personal heaters in strategic positions: on the kitchen and bathroom counters. I flip them on first thing, so in the morning when I'm fixing coffee, showering and dressing, those zones are nice and toasty. 

Getting ready is easy; it's getting ready to leave that's tricky. Multiple layers of clothing. At least one bag. Gloves, scarf and hat or bluetooth earmuffs. I change into regular shoes once I'm at work, but I need boots to trudge through the ice and snow. Laptop, glasses, book, lunch if I've made it. Mask. Two sets of keys. It's a whole production to get out the door, and I'm usually so overheated by the process that the blast of cold when I finally do is much welcomed.

I love my walk to work. One street over and five blocks down. As the crow flies it's twelve minutes. Or I can take a slightly longer path which is a little bit warmer, the sidewalks less icy. Taller buildings shielding morning commuters, all of us with our hands stuffed deep in our pockets.

I've learned to navigate by the tops of those tall buildings. GPS is not the way to get to know the city. Navigation gets turned around too easily, plus you're not familiarizing yourself with the surroundings when your head's down. The trick is to screenshot the directions, then follow them as if by a map. Find the streets. Then memorize their order. Or, look up at the high rises. Someday I'll learn their names but for now it's the blue one, the black one, the slanted one. They orient me like a compass.

The streets I cross are named after presidents and founding fathers. Towering banks flanked by stone planters as tall as me. Flags--city, country, corporation--whipping above, rivets clanging against the poles. Symbol after symbol of capitalism that I am supposed to hate but I don't. I just find them majestic.  

I switch up my approach. If I walk on the east side, I can admire the way my workplace stretches up to the sky, anchored by brass-fitted doors and a gleaming lobby. If I come up along the west, I can peek in at the cafe and, beside it, the sandwich spot where staff are just getting their own days going. Where I am becoming a lunchtime regular. Who could resist chicken pot pie soup in weather like this?

There's a bagel place, too. An Einstein's: my favorite. On Fridays I splurge. Blueberry toasted, with cream cheese please. The crew that works there is super friendly and exceptionally fast; I watch them, trying to figure out which if any is the manager. Whoever it is, they're good at their job.

The office building I work in has both revolving doors and regular push doors, like most of the entrances in downtown. Without exception I use the revolving door. Like the street lamps lining the avenues and parks, they will never stop enchanting me. 

After greeting Gus, I scan my work fob on the elevators that only go to our suite. I wear the fob, along with the key that locks my desk, on a coiled rubber wristlet. I wear it all day, in case I need to unlock any of the dozens of office doors in the building. Before I leave later, I'll swap that wristlet out for one that's almost identical: my home keys. Another fob and another single key, for the mailbox. 

(This has become a strangely comforting habit, wearing my keys around around my wrist like this. They don't jangle, since there's just the one metal one and a plastic fob. And I can easily wave my wrist past the scanners without having to take my gloves off. Works perfectly. )

The space is empty and dark when I arrive. I take off my coat, gloves, scarf, change shoes, then walk the floor to turn on the lights. I count the switches to myself, to make sure I don't forget any on days that I'm tired. But it isn't until I flip on the two massive chandeliers, which set the room ablaze with warming, golden light, that my day feels like it's starting.

I pull out my laptop, sign into mail and Slack, and see who in my company, scattered elsewhere around the country, has beaten me to work.