It is midnight. We step from baggage claim into maritime air—moist and cool. The disjunction of air travel—a modern oddity—wraps time in discomfort. It had been brightly sunny and aridly hot when we left Washington about noon. The hours of flight disappear in a miasma of immobility, in which muscles stiffen and the mind, racing impatience, searches the minutes for way stations.
Pulling our bags behind us, we walk to the taxi stand, find a cab, and begin our next journey. The driver has jazz on the radio. We look out of the windows at the trees and then the nightlights of the industrial margin of the city. A sense of the dark city begins to take shape, and we exit the freeway. We are downtown at a stoplight when the driver first speaks: “Been in Providence before?”
He is surprised when we say it is our first visit. In the block that remains between the stoplight and the Biltmore Hotel, where we will spend the night, the driver says, “It’s an interesting city. A lot to do.” He points left and says, “The art museum is up there at the Rhode Island School of Design. There’re wonderful restaurants. On Federal Hill—there are good Italian restaurants.” And we arrive at the Biltmore. I am beginning to taste pasta.