A Bedtime Story

7 Apr

Edna Sharp woke each morning at five thirty, without the aid of an alarm clock. She would sit up in bed and swing her legs over the right side, dipping her naked feet into strategically placed slippers. Edna would then plod off to the miniscule bathroom of her tiny studio apartment, take care of her morning business, and emerge from the bathroom door at a quarter to six. After getting dressed, preparing her lunch for the day, then making and eating her daily breakfast of two pieces of buttered whole wheat toast and a grapefruit, she’d leave her house at six AM and walk the half block to Queens Boulevard, where she could catch the number seven train into Manhattan.


Edna arrived at the subway platform anytime between five or ten after six, but whenever she arrived the train would always just be pulling into the station. She’d enter the same car every morning–fourth from the front–through the middle doors and sit down in the first seat to her left, which was always empty. The subway car itself would largely be empty that early in the morning, and due to her strict schedule, Miss Sharp would often see the same people at that time every day. After sitting down, she’d retrieve her latest pulp paperback from a battered tote bag and read until the seven train reached its last stop, Times Square.


In over twenty years of work, Edna had never, not once ever, been late. It was no wonder, really, since she arrived at Times Square every morning around seven o’clock, but work didn’t begin until eight-thirty. This hour before work was Edna’s most treasured time: in warmer weather, she’d park herself in one of the plazas on Broadway and peer at all the commuters and tourists exiting from their respective subway holes from over the top of her opened book. When it was cold, Edna liked to sit in a little coffee shop on Eighth Avenue and Forty-fourth Street and read her book while sipping tea. Very rarely, she would get a cheese danish; even more rarely, she would get a cheese danish with strawberry jam. During Edna’s morning excursion, anything could happen. It was the only time she might deviate from an otherwise iron-clad schedule.


At ten to eight, Edna would start walking to her job at the New York Public Library on Forty-second Street and Fifth Avenue. She enjoyed this walk but didn’t dally at it. Edna reached the front door of the building promptly at eight and then the door of the gift shop she managed by five after eight. Her job was to unlock the door, turn on the lights, and begin setting up the shop for a business day. Other employees would begin arriving at eight twenty and keep coming until about a quarter to nine. Miss Sharp couldn’t understand lateness–she had never been late, why were others continually lagging behind?–but she rarely took the employees to task for it. As long as they showed up by nine, she didn’t complain. Edna realized she was more pragmatic and ordered than most, and took it for granted that she would be on time while others would not.


At twelve o’clock, Edna took her lunch. Despite this being a free hour, she did one of two things every day: on warm, sunny days, Edna Sharp sat behind the library in Bryant Park and ate an egg sandwich on whole wheat bread with a cream soda purchased from the nearest hot dog cart. During inclement weather, she ate the same lunch in the employee break room. She would finish eating in about twenty minutes and spent the rest of her lunch hour reading. Regardless of where she had her lunch, she’d be back to work by one o’clock, on the dot. Miss Sharp didn’t even wear a wristwatch, and she didn’t need to. Edna was in a groove.


Edna’s workday ended at four o’clock, though she often stayed for twenty or thirty minutes longer for one reason or another. After giving her most trusted employee instructions for closing the gift shop, Edna left the library and walked the three short blocks to Grand Central Terminal where she would catch the number seven train home. She could have easily taken the subway entrance right on the corner of Fifth Avenue, the seven train stopped there, too. But Edna liked to take a look at Grand Central, look at the reversed canopy of constellations and walk by the Oyster Bar before going home to Queens. Depending on the day, she reached the subway platform a little before five o’clock. Despite being so close to evening rush hour, Edna always got a seat riding home.


Edna arrived at home at or close to five-thirty every day. A creature of habit, Miss Sharp would then do some variation of a handful of possibilities, depending on the season and her mood: if it was warm and sunny, she might take a walk around the neighborhood until six o’clock. If it was cold and dark, she’d go right home and tidy up, or sift through her mail, or boil several eggs in preparation for a week’s worth of egg salad sandwiches. Regardless, she would get home by six o’clock, and began preparing supper: either a can of vegetable soup with crackers or a leafy, green salad and a tablespoon of Thousand Island dressing. By seven PM, Edna had finished dinner and, after cleaning the dishes, she’d slip into her bedclothes and slippers, sit in her padded chair, and finish the book she’d been reading all day–or begin a new book, if that was warranted. At nine o’clock, Edna Sharp would brush her teeth and then sit down on the right side of her bed, kick her slippers off directly beneath her feet, and lie down. Edna continued to read until half past nine, when she fell asleep.


Edna Sharp’s dreams were not the stuff of surreal fantasy. Commonly, Edna dreamed about her workday schedule, egg salad sandwich and all, rarely with any variation. Sometimes she dreamed she was reading the most incredible book in the world while laying in bed, then Edna would awake with a start and become disappointed in the growing realization that her dream book didn’t exist–and worse, she couldn’t remember any details about it. A good dream might be where Edna found unclaimed money while lunching in Bryant Park, which actually happened one time. Not very often, Miss Sharp dreamed of her youth: of lost loves, of academic achievements and failures, of running around barefoot in the warm sun, trampling cool blades of grass underfoot. Though she often remembered them very well, Edna didn’t place too much importance on her dreams. They were, after all, just dreams. Everyone has them.


And when New York City dreamed, well, New York City dreamed of Edna Sharp.

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