Archive for the 'men' Category

on the sidewalk

He’s standing in front of my house when I step out onto the stoop. He’s looking back and forth from the basement apartment of my building to the one next door. He’s maybe 45, in jeans and an FDNY bomber jacket, salt and pepper hair. He’s too clean for this neighborhood, somehow. I can’t put my finger on it, maybe his jeans have been ironed. He looks up at me, sheepish, and explains, “I’m looking for my sister’s place. She just moved here with her husband. Latina girl? I can’t remember which one is her house.”

“Well,” I say, pointing to my building. “It’s not this one.”

“Great,” he says and stands in front of the neighbor’s with his hands on his hips. He’s not ready for the door yet. He paces a little as I walk toward the subway, and then gathers himself and walks through the iron gate. I hear it scraping on the sidewalk.

For no good or specific reason at all, as I turn the corner, I think: that man is an axe murderer.


down the block

The corner boys are hovering in a patch of sunlight, bundled up, shuffling in place. “Man,” one says. “It’s DAYtime. What we gonna do now?”

night in the neighborhood

It seems there’s no one on the sidewalk. I’ve got my head tipped back to see the dark blue sky. I feel the air shift a little, someone is dancing around to avoid crashing into me. We are left standing too close, but neither of us moves. “You see a spaceship up there, girl?” he asks. “No,” I tell him. “I am looking for the moon.” I’ve been standing on tiptoe, searching the sky. But it’s hiding somewhere, behind a tall building or below the horizon of the brownstones. “I can’t find it, can you?” He takes a step back now, looks around. “Nope, but you know. Gotta have faith in the moon.”

in the projects

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

on the corner

One of the bodegas is gone. I’m standing in front of the drawn metal shutters trying to remember when I last saw it open. A few days, a week, maybe. A big man with a little dog trailing passes by shaking his head. “Ain’t right,” he says. “Hurt’s comin’ down.”

on the avenue

The Chinese place is closing. Someone is pulling the metal shutters down over the side entrance. Two men jump out of a van at the corner shouting, “Wait, wait!” They cross against the light, darting in front of an approaching bus. The driver leans out his window and yells at them, “This bus don’t go to the hospital.” One of the men sticks his foot in the front door of the restaurant, and shouts back at the passing bus, “Neither do I.”

way uptown

It’s evening and the shifts are changing, people crowd the sidewalks toward the subway. I am walking against their grain and I see a cluster of men emerge from the grand entrance to the teaching hospital. They are tall and square-shouldered. Their smooth skin glows with the same sun that must have once raised their grandfathers’ corn to great heights and sweetness. They can’t have been here long. The city hasn’t carved itself into their faces yet.

outside the bodega

It’s dusk, and the rain is coming. There’s a man, unsteady on his feet, with a long, curled-handle umbrella. He’s holding it up to his shoulder like a machine gun, staring down the barrel and swiveling like a jungle commando, catching his image in the scratched plexiglass window of the bodega. I wonder if the yellowed, dust-refracted reflection suits his idea of himself better than a harsh mirror. A small boy wanders out of the store and stands a few feet away, watching. The man pivots slowly, beginning to grunt and growl before he comes around to face the boy. The boy pulls his arms around himself and waits to see where this is going. So do I. The man hunkers down and grunts his way toward the boy, the umbrella-gun carefully aimed. I’m weighing my slightness against the man’s new equilibrium. In case. Then, something invisible passes between them and the tension breaks. The boy giggles and runs behind a tree, peeking out. The man pulls a 40oz out of a pocket and sits down on the bodega steps. The evening begins.

in alphabet city

Every time I come down here, something else is gone. Now a man with a fine-boned face and an untucked shirt walks toward me, his arm angled out like a dandy’s. He comes closer and I see that he’s been crying in a dry and quiet way as he walks, the face quivering and the eyes ringed red. Up close the cocked arm seems to be holding him up, no longer a flourish. It’s so early in the morning, it all bespeaks heartbreak. A final night, a last, fumbling exit, a sorrow that sinks like a stone.

in midtown

Two well-dressed black men, their hands bound behind them in metal cuffs, are reasoning calmly with a cadre of cops. The cops listen intently, interrupting at times with a fluttering of hands. They might be bantering over beers in a dimly lit bar, or by a chess table in the park, except for the shackles.