For a few weeks, I toted around Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, reading it in the few snatches of time I had on the train or bus while in transit to and from school. Once, I ascended to the upper level of the train station to read, where there was more natural light here and a wealth of interesting commuters traveling to NYC. A harried man toting his office briefcase stopped abruptly in front of me.
“Wonderful book,” he said, with one headphone dangling in the air and his phone flipped open in his palm.
What? At first I was unable to understand; when I realized what he had been saying, he was already gone in his flurry of precisely-shined shoes and crisp tie.
The second experience I had with this novel was on my 4:30 PM bus ride home, and it was even more profound. My bus driver Sherifa, a single mother of two and part-time business graduate student, greeted me effusively as usual and asked what I was reading. While I explained, a round lady with cropped brown hair and overly-large sunglasses chimed in.
“Marquez? I love Gabriel Garcia-Marquez,” she said. “My name is Ana.”
The three of us spoke about the book and eventually the conversation was between just between Ana and me. After straining to maintain eye-contact and to hear her properly, I finally just left my seat and slid down next to her.
“Have you heard of Conny Mendez?” she asked.
I had not. Conny Mendez was Ana’s favorite author of all time. A Venezuelan actress and metaphysician, she had published many philosophical volumes. Ana urged me to read her books with a genuine outpouring of sentiment that I’ve only ever seen in people passionate about reading. I learned that she lived ten minutes away from me, that she had grandchildren and often gifted them books to instill within them a love of reading, something that connected us.
She got off at the same stop as me so we could continue talking. I walked halfway across our gated community along the Hackensack River with her to prolong our conversation. I told her I was a student and about how a relatively-technologically free childhood had shaped me into the person I am.
As I started thinking that I should return home, she pressed her hands into mine and said that she hoped her grandchildren would one day love to read as I did. I haven’t seen her again and it’s been a bit less than a year. I think of her thick Spanish accent and warm manner sometimes, and am reminded of how strongly one novel and a concurrent bus ride can lead to a unique interpersonal experience.