Heading home from work tonight, my plans for the evening consisted of a panini from Di Brunos, a book and a park bench in Rittenhouse Square. 45 minutes after I got home, I managed to pull myself off the couch and back out into the world. I got my sandwich and headed for the Square.
The whole world seemed to be out tonight. There were activists collecting signatures at the 18th Street entrance to the Square, friends settling down in the grass for a picnic dinner, elegantly dressed couples walking through on their way to the theater and parents letting toddlers run across the lawn. I settled down on a bench along the east path, pulled out my sandwich and opened my book.
I wasn’t paying a whole lot of attention to the people sitting around me, but when I did glance up, I inadvertently caught the eye of man reading on the next bench over. He looked to be in his mid-thirties, and had the stocky frame and dark coloring of the Mexican immigrants who used to work at my dad’s company when I was in high school. After I had been sitting there about 45 minutes, a voice accented with swirls of Spanish interrupted my focus on my book.
The man who had been quietly reading across from me was now standing next to my bench and he was holding out a note. I took the note, quickly read it and glanced back up at him.
He asked me in English if I spoke Spanish and when I said that I spoke a little, he told me in Spanish that I was very beautiful. I started at him with what I know he took as a look of incomprehension and then managed to squeak out “thank you.” He proceeded to ask for my phone number, to which I said no. He said that he’d like to get to know me. I replied with a non-committal “that’s nice” and when I tried to give him back the note, he shook he hands at me and told me to keep it. In case I ever wanted to get in touch.
I appreciated the gesture and the fact that a random stranger had told me I was beautiful, but I also felt slightly stunned by the encounter. If he hadn’t left the note with me, I would almost doubt that it had happened at all.
*The book I was reading was What Should I Do With My Life? by Po Bronson.