I have read in many different places in my life. Some were comfortable and some not. Often I would pick a place simply because no one else was there, and I didn’t want to be disturbed. It’s how I found myself in a coat closet with a flashlight once, and also why I was sitting in a bathtub one time at a party just reading while others pounded on the door to get in. In fact, I’ve even been known to feign sleep or sickness in order to read in bed with no one the wiser.
When I was a senior in high school I would get on the bus after school and head down to the waterfront in South Philly, my bookbag filled with books from the school library, or from the public library, or a mix of both. I would walk from 2nd and Market Street down past the little shops and curios, past the artists in the park who were painting idyllic scenes, and end up in a little courtyard between two mammoth hotels. Funnily enough it was easy to feel alone there, with all the people entering and exiting the enormous buildings next to me. I would sit on the grass, put on my headphones, and just read.
Then in college there was this little nook in the student activities center where no one seemed to go. It was admittedly tiny, but I could fit one of the orange plastic chairs in there, and it was enough. I would bring a slice of pizza there on a paper plate, balance it on my left leg, with a book on my right leg, and just read. I would be extremely careful not to smudge any of the pages, be the books mine or the library’s, but I wouldn’t stop either reading or eating, somehow concentrating on both with a fierce focus.
And now I have a space on the couch. You see, we have an L-shaped couch, and the end of the L is where I take up residence. On the bookshelf within my reach are a plethora of books — some I’ve read, and others I have yet to read, but all books that for some reason are on my personal continuum. I have two stacks that are closest to me, though, one of which are my books in progress, and there are always at least three books in that stack, while the other one contains books in my queue. This space is so comfortable to me that I rarely read anywhere else in the house, and the cushion on this side is slightly more depressed than the others on the couch. I keep switching it around to keep things level.
I have to say that the place I liked the most to read in, however, was on the train going back and forth from Philly to New York City. I would make the trip pretty much every weekend while I was in college, to head up to NYU to meet friends, or to just wander the village. And during each trip, going both ways, all I would do was read. Before we even pulled out of the station my head was buried in one book or another, and I would shut out the world. The movement of the train and the sound of the wheels rolling over the tracks was the perfect backdrop for me to lose myself in another world. It was soothing, and I always think of it when I’m having to read in a place that doesn’t have quite the same ambiance.
In the end it doesn’t really matter where I read. I can honestly read just about anywhere, but it’s the little things that I remember, the special places that I will always think of fondly, that will forever hold a firm place in my heart, because they gave me those moments. And the list continues to grow.