Archive for April, 2009

at the bodega

A small pregnant woman with a big voice comes in and says to no one in particular, “Where’s my husband at?” She looks at the proprietor. “How come you don’t know where my husband’s at?”

“He’s off today,” the man says softly.

The woman turns to a tall black girl in gold sandals and tight shorts. “You grown up,” she says, louder than necessary in the cluttered aisle. “I saw you. You grown up to be a good lookin’ girl.”

The girl speaks softly too, as though the woman has stolen all the volume the room gets. “Thank you very much.” She looks a little embarrassed.

“Where’s my husband,” the woman turns back to the proprietor. “You a bad father-in-law, how come you don’t know where my husband is,” she asks, cocking her hand on her hip. “Hmph.” She doesn’t leave him much room to answer. The man looks startled and shakes his head. She gives him a hard look and then, thinking better of the whole thing,  just sways her hips out the door.

in the projects

That old dude with the beatnik beard is strolling around like he owns the place. The corner boys let it ride.

in the neighborhood

At a stoplight, an elegant woman leans down and whispers in the ear of her frightened dalmation, “We’ll go to the park and look for other dogs, isn’t that right?”

Everywhere I turn, small children parade behind their teachers in two wavering lines.

on the subway

There’s a small man in a neat suit, and he can’t keep the smile off his face. He’s replaying something, the smile fades and returns. He puts a hand over his mouth to cover its brimming delight, then begins to stroke his fresh-shaved chin. A bunch of stops go by, and he’s still smiling with his secret. Now and then, his lips move, reliving the words that caused his happiness.

Next to him is a girl with pale brown skin, downy cheeks and sly eyes. She’s reading Pride and Prejudice. I want it to be the zombie version, but it isn’t.

by the bodega

There’s a young woman, she’s small and her clothes are smaller. Her face is shadowed by a stiff trucker’s hat. Beside her is a beanpole of a man rocking a baby carriage back and forth. He’s older, and just shy of homely. “Excuse me,” the man says, as he points a finger back and forth between him and the girl. “If you saw the two of us together, would you think we made a fine couple?” The girl is giggling, hiding her face further under the hat.

“You’re both beautiful,” I say.

“See,” he says to the girl, and then turns back to me. “She don’t want to be with me. What’s that about?”

“I guess that’s her problem, right?” I say, catching the girl’s eye so that we are in on the joke together.

I walk on by and the man calls out after me. I look back and there he is, all gangly with a silly grin and a big thumbs-up.

a few blocks away

It’s been months since I saw anyone on Dealer’s corner. Today some of his boys are leaning on the bodega dumpster, aimless and slack.

So, I try something new. I talk to them. “Haven’t seen your boss in a while, he ok?”

The fattest one steps forward and squints at me. “What boss?”

“That guy who’s usually around. Older than you. Always says hello.”

He shakes his head. It’s like a teacher does, you’ll get it someday honey, I know you will. “Lady, I know you ain’t police,” he says, and points his finger at his chest. “But to me, you might as well be.”

near the university

Two young Italian men are strolling down the sidestreet. They’re in dirty jeans, plain thick hoodies, they have the chalky hands of laborers. But everything about them is elegant. Their faces are framed by loose dark curls. Each man leans back into his gait, every step as languid and sensual as the long vowels that trail off at the ends of their sentences. I let them pass by and then I walk behind them for a long time, listening to their lullaby voices, understanding nothing.

[editorial note]

I have a new blog for works-in-progress (fiction).



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