It’s my first day of maternity leave – or rather the first day where I’m off work and my colleagues are not. Briefly I look at my watch and imagine my classroom, my students, and what they might be doing; then I forget all about them. The heater and the AC in my car have been broken for weeks, but I’ve never had time to fix them before now – needing the car for my daily commute across Auckland. I drop it off at the garage and am told it might take three hours or more to fix. I head to a coffee shop and wait.
Right now it’s 11.15 am on a Tuesday and the world doesn’t look like I thought it would. I’d imagined a deserted wasteland, everyone safely tucked away in their offices, as I’d always been at this time of the day. I’d imagined empty shops and having a quiet, lonely coffee, perhaps only interrupted by an elderly couple coming in for a cup of tea, or a harassed looking mother trying to grab a muffin while her child screamed. I’d imagined the midday wave of suits, that I’d seen once near London’s Liverpool Street, when suddenly thousands of men and women wearing black and white had washed into the market where I was sitting, only to wash out again a couple of hours later.
Ponsonby isn’t like that today. The queue for coffee has hardly stopped all morning and my belly and I are squashed into a corner table, as the rest of the cafe is full. There is no type here. The man next to me is early middle-aged and seems to be doing something with numbers on his ipad. Across the way are a gaggle who work together - they have a tab so this must be their regular hangout, although they’re dressed for the office. There is a mother with her beautifully behaved little girl (I want one like that!) having a very intellectual conversation for a four year old. Quite a few tables are, like my neighbour’s, taken up by men on their own, aged between 30 and 60, in semi-casual clothing, and women in the same age bracket, looking sporty and healthy. I wonder what their stories are. And yes, there are those who must be retired, having tea with family members.
So many lives, so many people coming and going, so many different ways to live. That’s my aim during this time I have away from the 9-5; to have a baby, of course, and look after her as best as I can, but also to try and explore this day time world and to spend at least some of the following months sitting in coffee shops and writing. But we’ll see what my daughter has to say about that!