I was walking home for doctor's appointment Tuesday afternoon in the rain. It didn't seem worth taking the subway for a 20-minute walk, but halfway through it I thought, why did I do this? I'm drenched. I'm tired. I still have two kids to pick up. Last-minute groceries to buy. Walking home was a mistake.
I stopped for a minute to take a break under an awning on 24th Street, and saw more than a hundred glowing paper lanterns in the window.
There was no sign, although "3 squared" was painted on the window in gold.
"Lanterns for Peace" said a sign inside.
Was it a cafe?
I peered in.
Only one table. A gallery? A store?
I adjusted my backpack, shook off my umbrella and propped it back up, continuing west on 24th with one backward glance. The rain was still coming down. The lanterns gleamed.
Back home I saw it was an exhibition by artist Jessica Maffia and that the closing reception was the following day.
That is New York, the promise it has always held. That on a rainy, routine, mundane Tuesday, when you shouldn't have walked home in the rain, on a block you think of only as the block with the 99-cent store, you pause for shelter, and you are more than sheltered, you are embraced, intrigued, beguiled, renewed, with light from more than a hundred glowing paper lanterns. On the last day before the exhibition is dismantled, sent from people you will never know and never meet, handwritten messages of love and peace.