When I first moved to Philadelphia I didn’t have a car. I didn’t know many people. I worked 13 blocks down the street from where I lived. My world was small in those days, both in the physical distance I traveled regularly and in the mental space I devoted to it.
Part of my small world was the intersection and CVS you see above. That first summer I lived in Philly, I would spend many nights sitting in Rittenhouse Square. On my way home I’d stop in to CVS to pick up a snack or a bottle of shampoo or a magazine. There was one Saturday night when I stopped in there, wandered around for fifteen or twenty minutes and came out with a pint of ice cream. As I walked down the block back towards my building, a man came jogging after me, saying “excuse me!”
He told me that he had watched me as I walked around the store and thought it was sad that such a pretty girl was all alone on a Saturday night. He told me that he was alone as well and would I be interested in meeting him at a bar down the street in half an hour for a drink. Because we were both alone.
He must have been twenty years older than me and despite the creepiness of the approach, there was something sort of pitiable about him. You could tell that it had taken a lot of risk on his part to approach me. I smiled at him, thanked him, told him no and went home to eat my ice cream.
I’ve often thought that if I wrote a play about my life in Philadelphia, that this corner would be the stage set. I used to take my grandmother into that CVS so that she could look at lipsticks and bottles of nail polish. For a while, it was my primary grocery store. I ran into my friend Sophie outside of it last Sunday. And back in the days when it was still a movie theater, I saw E.T. there.
Can you think of any one place that you would declare to be the set for the play version of your life?