Tonight I am babysitting for my neighbors. Their son is well-behaved, and I am sure he will be asleep by 8 PM. Which leaves me four hours to read.
I am in a panic. Four hours! Four hours! When do the Gods of Time ever hand me a free pass with four hours scrawled across it?
I absolutely have to make the most of this (sacred) time. I will not be required to cook, clean, do dishes, do laundry, fold clothes, make beds, get caught up on emails, straighten the kitchen, go through the back-to-school mail from the school, nothing. Zip.
I want to do my favorite thing in the entire world: Read. I must read.
I eye the end table in our living room. A teetering stack of overdue books from my last visit to the library threatens to tip over. They are all hardback books, with titles like House Lust and Crazy Busy and Memoirs of an Italian Princess from Wisconsin.
I go to the front hall closet and find a tote bag, the largest one I own. I start shoveling the books in there, as if I will never have four hours of uninterrupted time again, ever. Which I may not. I throw in a few magazines (if you can call nine a “few”) for good measure.
This is so great, I tell myself, an opportunity to read uninterrupted!
This opportunity used to present itself to me from time to time when I was a flight attendant. Sometimes United would send me to another city to pick up a flight back, so I would only be working in one direction. I would take several books and magazines so I would have something to do on the multi-hour flight. However, I usually did not finish everything I brought.
That will not be the case tonight. After 42 years on this planet, I am now a very fast reader.
The appointed time arrives, and I walk over to the neighbors’ house. Sure enough, they have already put their son to bed, so my reading time can actually start right away.
Neighbor Lady says, “MOV, here is the remote control in case you want to watch a show.”
I try not to laugh. “Oh, hey, that is really sweet of you, but I actually brought a couple of books with me,” I motion to the small suitcase I have brought with 27 books inside. And 50 magazines.
“Oh, okay, well, if you change your mind, here it is.”
“Don’t worry, I won’t.”
They finally leave, and I settle in. I start looking at all the choices of books I have, and wonder how many books I can finish in one sitting.
I put a couch pillow under my head to get more comfortable. Wow, so many books! I always dream about reading this many books! Oh, I can't wait!
“MOV?” says Neighbor Lady quietly, while she taps my shoulder lightly, “MOV? Hello! We’re back. I texted you, but you never responded. So sorry it’s way after midnight! Looks like you must’ve fallen asleep.”
("My Only Virtue")