i know you’ll know exactly what i mean when i say, there’s a roughness to the city when the
sun has risen and you’re only just heading home. i’m sure you’ve experienced this in many
places, many cities, small towns, bar towns, industrialized wastelands. but here, here. there is a
sort of virus that starts running down streets, turning corners, biting, marking anyone in it’s path.
a viciousness that only the sun can master as it rears its ugly head for the start of a long day.
it’s eight am when i burst through the front door of an apartment building on 100th street, the
albeit muted sun breathing a sneering hello down my neck. a dog barks at me. the owner is jittery
and haggard, but friendly. she gives me a smile. she’s almost got fangs, too pointed for my liking.
i’m surprised a smile like that rings tender. so despite the fact that i’m coming down and losing
the joy of a night drunk, i smile in return. it’s rare you get loved by a loon.
my feet can’t carry me fast enough to the bodega on the corner of 98th street. the bagels are
electric, if it makes enough sense to call a bagel electric. everything toasted with cream cheese.
aren’t we supposed to be famous for the schmear? this place does it wrong, but i can’t complain
about an abundance of the homemade stuff.
i’m positively stuffing my face walking up 3rd. i let my mind go. no particular focus, aside
for the rate at which i’m biting at my bagel. i stop at the church on 101st; they’re having a
sidewalk sale. sort of like an outdoor thrift store – a bunch of clothes no one wants, cassette
tapes, VHS tapes, tacky children’s furniture. i find a plaid oversized coat i adore. cough up the
five bucks.
there’s an old mexican lady running the sale. i give her the money, and out pops a small boy
from behind her. i smile and wave – most city kids are cautious, not easy to coax out of their
shells. but before i know it, he’s got my hand and he’s pulling me into the church. a long line of
tables awaits, baked goods stocked on each. brownies, cookies, cupcakes. some mexican
“one dollar..” he says to me, the kid. “anything, one dollar…”
i can tell he doesn’t speak a lot of english. the woman behind the table smiles. the three girls
with her smile too, point out different delicious things for me to buy. i want to give them all the
cash i have left, ten bucks. but i can only manage to carry three cupcakes, so that’s what i buy.
“gracias..” says the little boy, says the woman, says the three girls. all at once, almost. a small
chorus. i say it back and i’m gone.
of course, i feel good about giving my money to someone who needs it. but more, i feel…
rejuvenated. i think i get this city, its twists and turns. its two-faced snarl when it rains or the
commute is extra awful. i almost think i may have found the meaning of life.
i barely get a chance to put the cupcakes on the kitchen table before i’m throwing up into the
garbage can, knees hugging my scraped up hardwood floor.
so i guess i still don’t know much at all.
when i’m done emptying my entire body, i walk to the cabinet, grab a cup. drink a lot of
water. the taste of vodka and bagel won’t go the fuck away. finally, i walk to the table, sit. the
cupcakes say hello to me. i say hello back.
i bite into one with pink frosting. my stomach doesn’t immediately turn, so i take that as a
good sign. i eat it all.
i change, shower. fall into bed, around 9:30 or so. stare at my phone, the numbers staring at
me. it was a good night, now that it’s finally coming to a close.
funny, the way it draws forward, like a circle. nights bleeding into days bleeding into nights. it
never quite stops.