Archive for February, 2009

on the platform

There’s no train, and there’s no train. Everyone paces in small circles, or rocks back and forth on their feet. They lean out past the edge to check for lights, it’s like a Busby Berkeley number, bodies fanning in sequence. There’s a young woman dressed not like a secretary, but how she imagines a secretary would dress. It’s a little too fanciful, her shoes are dainty and the headband holding back her dark hair is almost a tiara. A skinny man swings a book by his side, his fingers marking his distracted place.

People are still pacing and checking their watches. Ten minutes go by. A few more. Then suddenly we are in it together. The skinny man steps close and asks me if I heard any announcements. He thinks it might be better to give up and walk to the next station. I ask him what he’s reading, he says it’s dry but useful, and reads the title aloud to me in a mocking voice. Then he rocks forward to check the tracks again.

Behind us, a bald man in dorky sneakers asks the girl where she got her tiara.


in the neighborhood

I pass a man on the sidewalk you can tell is crazy just by looking. He’s got those eyes pinned permanently open in horror. A few steps on I hear him grunting behind me. I turn back. He’s holding out the mittens I have unwittingly dropped.

On the corner, two cuffed black teenagers are being folded into a cruiser by seven fat white cops.

on the block

Three men with parkas over their pajamas, each pulled along the sidewalk by a dachshund on a leash.

on the block

The corner boys fill the warm night. They circulate in packs, moving in their slow, liquid way. But their eyes are sharp, scanning the distance. Something’s up.

on the corner

Dealer’s back. I haven’t seen him for at least a season, maybe two. He’s gladhanding his corner boys as I cross the street. He looks good, better-kept than he used to. “How you feelin’ baby,” he sings out to me through a big grin, “long time no see.” He says it just right, familiar and curious, as if I were the one who’d been gone the whole time.

near the university

The snow has just stopped falling and everything glitters in the darkness. Behind me someone is singing, she sings a little off key but everyone knows the song anyway: “a beautiful sight…we’re happy tooonight…walkin’ in a winter wonderland.” A few passersby from the other direction smile. I turn around. There’s a woman in a parka, she’s maybe fifty, or she has smoked all her life and is younger than that. She’s got her arm hooked into the elbow of a man in a hoodie, she’s leaning in tight, smiling like a child caught sneaking something small but illicit. She catches my eye. “It’s a good song,” I say as they pass me by. She laughs and laughs and I stay still and listen to her until they round the corner and drift away.