I’m skittish when I pull of the bridge, my feet are sore, and I’ve been driving too long. At first I am dazed, the city is so much bigger than I remember. I swing onto 9th from the Lincoln Tunnel and find my place between these high rises. I am surrounded by glass towers adorned with vast windows that capture my reflection, and I watch the car as it moves noiselessly with the grain of the stream.
I hear signs of life waiting at a red light. There is a car that announces its presence with a stern and headed horn. I watch the soft arrival of a leaf on the pavement, and smile as it scratches the concrete. I hear the jostling of keys as they are fiddled with, desperate yanks, trying to pry them from the depths of a rigid pocket.
Today, the sun is hiding behind a front of gray, and things are cool for once, naked skin doesn’t sting against the surface. I look at the sidewalk, it is stained with gum, cigarette butts, and unidentifiable mixtures of bodily fluids as well as countless other junk that you wouldn’t think is good enough to toss in the garbage bins.Like empty cups and containers from McDonald’s. Shards of glass laying patiently on the ground. Broken cardboard boxes and crumpled newspapers from weeks ago moving like bales of dust. There are people squatting with these things. Gaunt, they rest against the buildings, heads hanging towards the ground, rhythmic, with drooping eyes, low, listless and vacant, nearly scraping the ground, caught in a trance. The merchants take to the sidewalk hocking jewelry and bootlegs for half the price and a third of the quality. And the pigeons perch triumphant on power lines only to jump to the occasional branch, to observe all that there is, and all there ever will be. There is a reason they shit on us.
I close my eyes and I hear car doors slam shut, hear the hiss of steam emanating from under the streets, hear the ceaseless pounding of a jackhammer and hear the faint far reaching whacks of nails against hammers. A young man hollers the score of the Yankees game with a grin to a crowd of people descending into the depths of the subway station. There is the sound of young school girls still giggling and whispering with innocence, still nervous about even saying a boys name out loud and silently unsure about the future and their place it, yet to be assuaged by the unavoidable way of things. A draft finds its way through my windows, and I can smell where things are heading. And though my errands in Manhattan have been delayed at this unfortunate but necessary bit of traffic, life is abundant and blooming before my ears in the form of footsteps, muffled coughs and children’s voices disguised as a monotonous routine.
The car behind me honks, I flash open my eyes to a green light staring back at me. I press my heavy foot into the pedal, and all these things drift aimlessly into the past, like some wanton bird flying in the wrong direction for the very last time. Yet the city and the streets and the people and the buildings and the corners and the sidewalks and the windows and the parked cars and the trash and even those leaves blowing listlessly from the trees somehow blur and condense into this specter that roams through the alleys, the stairwells, the attics and the stoops; relentlessly evolving, it will never splinter or wane into a calculable history that would be as vulnerable as it is still.
Every road is dotted in half with intermittent lines, rested upon square shoulders always headed strictly towards an end. I am on one of them.