thoughts on the way to work

“Remember when that pigeon was pecking that other pigeon?”
“Um. . . yeah. . . .”
“Well, first he was walking around on the dead pigeon then he started eating him. . . .”
“Yeah, that was pretty gross.”


I sidestepped a furry patch on the pavement. It was a rat, most likely, before an unfortunate moment-- minutes or hours ago-- in the street where Clinton meets Houston.

I heard a long, loud list of angry obscenities across Spring, but didn’t turn my head, concentrating on Jack Johnson’s and Cat Stevens’ brilliant scoring of my walk to work.

Last night I saw a naked man roller-skate onto a stage-- more of a circus ring, really-- and my first thought was just, If I’d ever taken time to try to imagine a naked man roller-skating, that, I think, is what it would have looked like. . . . the physics, at least, if not the mohawk.

I’m just a drop sometimes, part of an underground stream capable of running up stairs before spewing onto the dirty sidewalk, eyes down-cast in order to avoid dead rats and dog poop, but, when happening to glance up, desensitized to the postcard skyline.

I don’t get asked for directions as often as I used to, but when I do, I can usually give them.

I’m not a New Yorker, I want to shout at the tourists in ugly sneakers, the bums, the F train, the three-hundred-dollar tee shirts, myself. I’m just a little girl from Georgia: witness to shooting stars so bright they must have landed just on the other side of the azalea hedge, where we should probably check in the morning; possessor of black soles, unable to recall the last time she wore shoes; creator of potent perfumes, made with the finest combination of macerated petals, sticks, dirt, and plastic-hose-water; explorer of magnolias, with rooms, big like houses; beneficiary of the night-time lullaby of frogs and crickets and the occasional train whistle.

I could be a New Yorker, most days.

I can believe it until I hear the whine of a 4- or 5-year-old child, sharp and whining, demanding of a parent or nanny that they not walk, but take a cab to their destination.

It’s a voice you’ll hear again in 15 or 20 years. It will be walking in front of you, having an indiscreet mobile conversation about an ex-best-friend’s recently acquired STD or at the next table over, discussing a mother’s most recent rehab attempt and failure. It will sound angry, even when it’s not.

It’s a voice I feel sorry for, making me wonder, In a place with no dirt driveways, where do you learn to ride a bike?



Amy said...

Oh, how I understand this! I grew up in a very small, rural town full of bare feet, backyards, woods and adventures. And I've now lived in Manhattan and then Jersey City for 4 and a half years. I have a 5 month old, now, and I worry about how I will get him a backyard, teach him to climb trees, blow bubbles and ride bikes. I don't want him to be that kid. That kid who becomes too jaded, too aged, too early. I want him to be barefoot and free-spirited as long as possible.

E said...

I have finally accepted that I a) will never live in NYC and b) don't particularly want to. I think there is a time in your life where the dirt, grime, and tension is invigorating. Now it just makes me want to take a shower and nap.

The Brooklyn Boy said...

Kansas! Ha.

(No joke.)