Archive for the 'oneiric' Category



in midtown

The snow has just begun to drift down from the sky. The workers are late for work, the tourists are huddling onto their buses. A company of police, in dress blues with tall white spats, makes their laughing way across town, carrying gilt-tipped flagpoles and regulation lunchboxes.

on the subway

Two boys, brothers, with creamed-coffee skin and halos of long kinky hair that’s just a shade darker. The older one plays guitar by the doors, the younger one sits on the bench and plays bongos, it’s a halfhearted rendition of “Norweigian Wood.” The younger one’s fingers are gifted, and he is languid. He takes off his glasses with one hand, tucking them into his shirt,  still tapping the beat with the other. The song ends far short of the coming stop. The tips are collected in a plastic bag. The train jerks across the bridge. The boy puts his drums aside and makes a fist, which he tries ambitiously to shove into his mouth.

He knows I’ve been watching him. I ask, “Does it fit?” He shakes his head. He tries again, compressing the fist first with his other hand and stretching his mouth to its limit. “Ouch,” he says softly to no one, pulling his hand away. “That hurt.” There is one final attempt, again falling short of success. The train slows into the station, and he slides out after his brother just as the doors are closing.

in the subway

A platoon of junior-highschool kids striding along the platform in full military dress. An accordion plays.

in the projects

A skinny man in a Santa hat talking on the phone: “You do the right thing when I get home, hear?”

at the laundry

It’s very early. The warm air is full of dew. The place is empty, and almost elegant now that it is stripped of the bright fabrics and plastic bottles and bored women. Only the man who runs it is there, passing a load of whites from a metal cart into a dryer. There’s a radio on, in Chinese. The man comes over to weigh my bag. Then the radio switches to English, but it’s not a radio after all, it’s a language lesson. “When-will-the-car-be-ready?” The soothing voice asks three times, each with a different inflection. Then another round, Chinese and back to English: “I-am-ready-to-face-tomorrow.”

in the projects

I’m walking home at dusk, feeling sour about the inexorable shortening of the day. There are two big women on a bench, a third standing before them leaning into her speech like a preacher. “We’re Christians,” she says. “We’re not supposed to wear jeans.”

in midtown

An elevator full of women talking about their insomnia.

in the corporate piazza

At a table, a girl on a cellphone is droning vapid relationship advice. All around her, everyone is kissing.

by the vacant lot

There are four of them, huddled around a walleyed dog, their backs to the sagging fence. The accumulated stink of their cologne and their sweet cigarillos is unfathomable. Last week there was a pigeon splattered in the street in front of them. It is still there.

on a backstreet

He’s leaning back against the side of his sedan, one arm stretched out above the door as though the car were his best girl. There’s a mambo playing, and all around the other men are lifting  beers swaddled in brown paper and shimmying in place, their heads thrown back with pleasure. Now he reaches into his pocket and scatters a handful of bright pennies in the empty street. A few small children rush over at the sound of the fallen coins, squatting to gather them. He watches with pride at what he has caused. The other men keep dancing in place as the song changes key.



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