Sometimes I wonder why I woke up today. You see it was a late night, not one filled with laughter but one with tremendous pain. My head keeps buzzing and it has no snooze button to make it all go away. I am living a nightmare right now. I look around me and it is bright as day.
The City was empty, it was a chilly night. The hardened New Yorkers opted to stay inside. The streets that I wandered, were desolate and filled with crime. The walls were papyri for the illiterate kind. The drunks were lying on anything nice. The youth was hungry, but that is a sign of the times.
Frank was a drunkard, and he had plenty of thoughts. He wanted to share them with all of the folks. He could not find them, well let us be honest, he could barely walk. The time kept passing as his life was getting short. I walked right past him, as he mumbled, "Hey buddy, help me find the consort." Yeah, it was that kind of night.
Dark and cold like Frank's wretched soul. I entered the subway to get away from it all. The station hosted an odor so merdurinous it could knock you out cold. You couldn't tell if it was from the rats or the proles. Some of them laid there, sleeping it off. The train had entered and I walked through the doors.
A lady held a carriage, with a baby, I suppose. She was stripping, "because of the heat under my clothes," that's the way she put it anyway. I take a seat and hope my eyes won't close. She kept yelling, her story sounded like prose. She put her clothes back on and again in her own words, "because it is cold."
I get off long before my stop. All that drug use would eventually make her drop. I didn't want to have to explain it to the cops. I step outside, and I look at the buildings and their really tall tops. Empty and well-lit were most of the shops. Some were closed for the evening, while others for lack of funds.
I walk into the drugstore and its lit like day. An employee approaches, "Can we help you with something?" "Oh no, I'm OK." I walk out, back among the strays.
A cab pulls beside me, "Going somewhere?" I point down the street, "No, just over there." It speeds off looking for another fare. The draft behind it is full of dirty air.
Down the street I see what looks to me, like some form of coterie. They're laughing like they overdosed on Chablis. Walking toward me, they seem so free. I pass them by this big old tree. Alone again, I try to figure out where I need to be.
Catch the subway at the next station, or keep walking till the holes in my shoes get themselves extensions? A man on the corner is asking for donations. I look through my pockets, but all I find are notations. What is this stuff I think to myself. I think between me and normalcy is a massive gulf.
And then came trouble. Two guys decked in blue, you would think they were wearing uniforms. "What are you doing," they asked. "Going home," said I. "Where's home," they continued. I wondered if I should lie. "Queens." "Shouldn't you be in the subway?" "Indeed." It went on like this. They finally moved on, looking for some easier prey. I suppose somebody with a darker complexion would make their day.
The night got chillier. Even though no one was around, the streets got dirtier.
A young lady passed by. I nodded and said hi, just to be polite. "Do we know each other," said she. "I barely know myself lady." She smiled. I nodded and went on my way.
What was her story? What about the coterie? I thought it amazing that Frank the drunk's book was most open. Well his and the stripping junkie in the subway. I guess you could say her book was laid bare for all to read. No cover, no blurbs on the back. Just the story on the inside, on the outside.
I kept at it, picked up the pace. I would have to get some sleep. I enter the subway, and see a man's bare feet. He says something barely audible as I walk by. I wait. Finally the train arrives. A young immigrant family shares the ride. As the subway escapes the underground and heads above, I see the darkness of the night. Now the walk home. All alone. The pain in me strong as ever. I pass by the grocer who is open all night. In case, at two in the morning, anyone wants an apple to bite. Everything else is closed. So much for the city that never sleeps.
I turn the corner. All the lights are out. Everyone is sleeping now. I head home.
I unlock the door. Finally, I arrive. As I entered the apartment, I saw in the mirror, a messed up version of me. The time on the clock read five after three. I still had to shower, and of course, go and pee. It would be a long time till I could go to sleep.
As I am awake, it is the next day. I still have the pains I was trying to throw away the night before. I head outside. A bit warmer now. The streets are full of crowds. The grocer's still open but so is everyone else, except for those that went bankrupt. Nothing has changed, yet everything is different. Night, day, empty streets, crowds, closed stores, open stores, quiet, noise. And yet the litter is still there, the concrete, the asphalt, the glass, the parked cars. They all are doing what they did yesterday. That is nature's cruel joke. Repeat the endless loop. Do they see it? Does it bother them? I guess not.
Image courtesy of Satish Krishnamurthy.
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Previously: Franklin’s Freezing River