On Broadway, between 84th and 85th Street, next door to Haagen Daas and Godiva, is the Origins cosmetics store. Outside the store sits the Origins gumball machine. Someone has scratched off the ‘e’ in “Peace of Mind,” so that the gumball machine now reads, “Pace of Mind.”
The pace of the gumball is slow. Intended to evoke the purity of unspoiled origins, it is white and winds leisurely down a long, transparent, spiral tunnel like an egg descending through the fallopian tubes.
At 9 AM on a Tuesday morning, the pace of people passing the Origins gumball machine is quick–swish of pleated slacks and brief cases, rustle of the Business Section, rhythmic click of heels over concrete. But if one steps outside the sidewalk rhythm and reads the faces, the pace shifts.
The spinning slows, tunnels into a slow-rolling space of private association. That man isn’t really reading the business section. Notice the sly smile parting his lips, the pleased raise of his eyebrows, quick lick of his lips and then the smile again; he is remembering last night, rewinding, replaying, rewinding… And the 20-something girl in the cashmere turtleneck and A-line skirt, watch how she tilts her head from side to side, her lips moving slightly, the gruff, furrowed brow to one side, the poised, confident smile on the other. She is a legal assistant, enacting the witty dialogue she will not have with the daunting attorney she works for. In actuality, he will call her into his office to point out the errors in the email she sent to 50 employees; her cashmere turtleneck will feel itchy, constrictive, her face will turn tomato-red, but for now, she has the perfect insightful, humorous observation, her ill-tempered boss irresistibly lured into laughter, into looking at her as more than the origin of irritating mistakes.
Once the egg is released, it travels down the fallopian tubes for a period of about 7 days. Sometimes, in the midst of this slow, winding journey, fertilization occurs: A middle-aged woman with black running tights and Nikes sticking out of her overcoat, walks briskly, shivering and guzzling Starbucks coffee. Suddenly, her blank look bends into a crooked smile and she laughs out loud, remembering something funny someone said this morning at the gym, a quick, unconscious laugh that surprises her. And at her laugh, the man smiling slyly at the business section looks up from his paper, opens his eyes wide, and smiles at this woman, chuckles at the fact that they are walking side by side in two separate reveries. For a moment, inside and outside have merged, winked at one another as if to say choosing is not necessary, not now, before separating again, descending into the subway, sinking from the bodies pressed side-upon-side in the crowded car.
The tug between inside and out, the inner world relieving the chaos of the outer world, the outer world relieving the turmoil of the inner, the missing letters we hardly notice are missing anymore.