Archive for June, 2009

in front of the gallery

We’re standing around in front of the gallery in the soft, misty rain. People are smoking and talking with their hands. A very small woman in a curvy black dress is standing alone with her arms crossed, shiny black curls swinging around her bare shoulders. My friend says  hello to her, and then I do too, it’s a friendly night, here in the rain. She seems both relieved and dismayed to have been noticed as a person who is waiting for something. I ask her why she’s standing around.

“My friend is very very late,” she tells me, her shoulders rise and drop, punctuating her annoyance. She holds a palm up to the rain. She’s tapping her foot. She’s smiling through all of this. She’s performing something.

“You could wait inside,” I say, pointing at the massive plate glass windows that separate us from the party.

“Oh no,” she says. “I want to stay here and get even madder by the time he shows up.”

Now I get it. Now I’m interested. “What are you going to say when he does?”

She gives me a look that says, we’re in this together, we women, we know how this works, we know where the power lies. “I’m going to tell him,” she leans closer, “that he better buy me a drink before I’ll even say a word to him.”

We both laugh, and she whisks some of the dewdrops off her pretty arms. A taxi pulls up, a man in a nice shirt and nice shoes tumbles out. He seems earnest even in the way he unfolds himself from the taxi, eager and clumsy. It’s not what I expected at all. I look back at her, she winks at me as he brushes past me to greet her.

Over my shoulder, I can hear her. She’s not mad at all.


on the subway

It was that one day that felt like summer in the middle of the endless rain. The kids on the subway were bursting out of themselves.  A curvy girl in jeans and a skinny boy in school uniform trousers were sparring around the vertical pole, daring each other to take off articles of clothing, pretending that they might. She offered a seated boy a lap dance. He tentatively accepted, knowing there’s a catch here somewhere. She laughed at him, “No way!”

“I bet you all choke your chickens every single night,” she laughed again.

“What about you, huh?” Ventured the boy she refused to dance for.

“Not me, no way. I’d never do that.”

“Never say never,” said the skinny boy.

“That one I’m sure. Never.”

Then a boy who had been silent through all this said, “You’re what, 16? Say you live to be 90. It’s statistically impossible in all those years you’d never.”

“Statistics is for white people,” she spat back.

in the projects

There are two beat up cars and a van parked on the courtyard sidewalk next to one of the towers. Maybe a dozen men are standing around by the van, it all seems friendly enough. But there are small groups of people clustered around the courtyard, watching, keeping their distance. I get closer and I see what it is, an undercover in a football jersey is jangling two pairs of cuffs on his finger.

On the far side of the trouble, I walk past a man in a neatly tucked t-shirt. He’s talking to an old lady with a granny cart. “I didn’t know they sell drugs in that building.”

“Shit yeah,” the old lady says.

on the sidewalk

I have a neighbor who looks away whenever we pass on the sidewalk. He’s younger than he is old, and thin, and the thing about this man is the tremendous pouches under his eyes, sagging down to his sharp cheekbones. I imagine that he never sleeps. His landlady lives on the ground floor of his building, but it is him I see on the weekends tending to the things growing in barrels out front. Pulling weeds tenderly, pinching wilted flowers. Maybe he has made peace with his insomnia. Maybe the pockets beneath his eyes are filled with undreamt dreams.