Sometimes, it is this way . . .
You get up, the rain is falling and you stagger out of bed. The weather, the mood, grabs you by the throat—chokes the color out of your eyes, cheeks, and skin. You snatch clothes, maybe a yellow shirt, and beige slacks, to mask the darkness inside. But you can’t bring yourself to put them on.
“Oh, forget it!” you think. “Just give in.” So you toss the clothes aside. Instead, reach for a grey sweater, black pants, and scarf, and gloves, and coat, and hat. You suck your teeth and let out a loud frustrated noise. “Steeeeeeeeeeups! Too much clothes . . . takes too much time . . . hateful, bland winter colors. Makes no sense!”
It should be the other way around, you think. A person needs bright yellows, oranges, greens to forget the death inspired winter chill. Makes you want to think of home, hold the memory close and snuggle up in its warmth. But home is a vague remembrance—a distant place.
Makes you question why you came to this place. “In search of what?”
Island-bred, sun-ripened girl, in North American rain, and smog, and snow. Thinking more and more of sun and sea in October, November, and December, when each day passes into a still colder one. Trees become lifeless frames, and fallen leaves clutter the rooftops, gutters, sidewalks, and drains, stick under your shoes and walk into your dingy apartment. Leaves that lie everywhere, too tired to do battle with the harsh air, instead decide to paint the landscape briefly the window of your basement apartment, where tree skeletons glisten with leftover rain and extend upward out of view.
You reenact the script: put the kettle on; slice the cheese thinly; place it on day-old bread. Can’t remember what you had yesterday. Monday eggs, Tuesday PB & J, Wednesday cereal, Thursday cheese, and Friday eggs. Eggs, PB & J, cereal, eggs, eggs, cheese . . . Or was it P B & J, eggs, cereal, cheese. . . . Does it really matter?
Pack the lunch, close the door and walk into another day in this inhospitable place. You hate the city; it’s dirty, grimy, and noisy. You try to escape the too many extended hands, asking for spare change, money to get a token, something to eat. . . . Sometimes you give. Other times, your raised hand says no before they ask. You’ve become callous; conned too many times. Once by the young man who asked for change to buy a hotdog, but you [End Page 840] saw him a few minutes later with that packet of Marlboros. Or the woman who hit you up three times in one day with three different lines. And still angry with the man who called you ‘stupid bitch,’ because he asked the time and you didn’t have a watch.
Sometimes it is this way in this lonely city of “brotherly love.” Walking down the street you sink underground into the subway—the belly and intestines of this metropolitan body—that moves us all along. It is the place where thoughts soak in. You see school children who don’t look like children at all, who shout, and laugh, and talk about things that would make your mother wash your mouth out with a block of blue soap. You see the man with empty eyes seated right in front of you. Something about him imprisons your gaze. But what? Then you recognize the look. Realize that you are both on the same journey—he’s just a little further along. That scares you. So you pretend not to see when his face turns into a grimace, or the water collects at the corners of his eyes. Force yourself to look away. See the family taking a trip—grandmother, her daughter, her daughters’ daughters, their collective children, and the father. Their words shoot around the inside of the train and hit you in the face. There is no escape. You don’t want to listen to the young mother scream at the little boy: “Shuuuud UP!”. . . .“I’ll slap you.” But you carefully filter the voice of the little girl with the rotted teeth and spotty...