New York Stories


It had been years since I’d seen this end of 47th Street, or that particular doorway.  As I gazed through the rain-spattered window of the cab, those long-forgotten days welled up warmly in my chest like a departed consort back from the dead, projecting themselves beneath the filthy street lamps that lit only selected parts of the sidewalk here.  Their collective haze deftly cloaked the drugs, the urine, empty liquor bottles in crinkled brown bags, crack vials, dog shit, and bodies strewn across stoops.  It begat an atmosphere that matched the glitter-paved blocks of Broadway, a glamorous mirage in the stinking city; but this one was more simple, more genuine.  Rooted in reality.

It could just as easily have been Park Avenue.  Lost souls create their own private worlds in parallel form, worlds that work in the same way things work across town.  They deal, they cope, they live.  Most of them survive.  They are merely more exposed, their suffering more immediate, explicit, and direct.  Pain need not be exhumed in weekly therapy sessions; it is in the face.

All things considered, it was not quite as bad as it sounds.  Nothing is ever as grave as it appears to one who does not know it, who does not live with it day‑in/day-out.  I recalled what my life had consisted of in those days.  It seemed so rash, so distant – careless, pointless, and brief.  As though it had never happened, or had been lived by someone else – forgotten conveniently and entirely.  It stirred something inside me now – some dark, aching thing that sank into my stomach.  As the nausea began, I realized that nothing had changed at all, that I had not labored a single inch past that state of unknowing and sorrow.  The only difference was that I didn’t believe in dreams anymore.  I believed only that things could get worse.  I had lost my hope and all of my innocence – any child-like faith that good outweighs evil, that someone will come along to protect and love you forever.  I had become too frightened to believe that fate, my fate, would be one that led to happiness.  I suspected loneliness.  I had only fear.  It was all I had left.

I found myself longing to live there again, in Hell’s Kitchen, as if things would be better somehow; the happiness and self-content I did not now possess would magically be found.  I had successfully deluded myself of that in the past.  But I knew better now.  I was different – more … composed, calm, and even.  Things that glittered no longer taunted me, roused my attention or my envy.  I believed in wholeness, love, and beauty.  I believed in sharing and planting and telling the truth.  The problem was that though I believed all of those things, I could not live them.  There simply was not enough good in me.  I wanted to take people and shake them and tell them to stop it, just stop it – the charades, their “look,” the pompous self-indulgence.  It filled me with disdain.  With hatred.  And I wanted to bash their heads in.  If they would only see.

And then … twilight.  That immortal elixir, shrouding the world in ephemeral mystery.


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