city speaks in tongues, a mangled monologue she can't seem
to understand. A language drawn from history, hate, fear, the amnesia
of head injuries--her head cracked open on the edge of an antique
coffee table when her father drank half a bottle of vodka and knocked
her over the same way he knocked over the garbage can. The table
too was in ruins, and she saw her father crying the next night,
kneeling next to it with the pieces in his hand, running his fingers
over the fine design.
Never a dispassionate observer,
she remembered well her first visit to New York City, giddy with
weed and heady with the utter strangeness of a place she's
never been, feeling comfortable that everyone in the town is a stranger
to her. A blank slate. An escape better than any she's known.
An escape from herself, her past, judgment, preconceived notions.
The welter of her life left behind. For a few brief moments, she
was able to waive her identity. Though traversing the city was ominous
at times, though she quickened her step in certain areas, though
she made sure to stay on populated streets, she reveled in her anonymity,
refusing to carry identification.
Walking through the Village,
Chelsea, and Soho in the November cold, the subway rumbled and waste
misted up out of manholes, clinging to her clothes. In New York,
no one can sleep at night unless they shower first, except for the
men you see on the street, in doorways, any spot they can find that
shields them from the wind, or the kid she passed with several small
bills in one hand, a cigarette in the other, and a syringe laying
near his hand. These images along with sirens intermittently interrupted
her sleep, broke through the thin barrier of a pillow she feebly
put over her scarred head.
She can't sleep unless
she takes a barbiturate. She can't wake up before two in the
The next day, when the pill
started to fade, and the sun began to brighten her room, she walked
out in to the hallway to smoke, to sift through the debris of her
night. A short Asian man with only four bottom teeth remaining and
wearing a pink robe, started a conversation with her. He introduced
himself as Chuck, and she made small talk although she'd rather
be alone, especially since her face was tear-streaked, and she was
busy examining the Ambrose Bierce hallways--long and narrow
like the entrance to life or the exit of death. He asked her if
she was married, and since her left hand was in her pocket, and
she was desperate for some sort of boundary, some sort of quick,
thick wall between her and this person, she said yes.
He walked away. He shuffled
down the hall in his black slippers and pink robe. The city told
its stories but didn't translate, and she was left with a
milieu of language, a script with all the answers--answers
broken into slivers that splinter her dreams.
There are maps too that she
can't decipher, people who avert their eyes and bump into
her on the street as if she were a piece of ill-placed furniture.
So she smoked and tried to remember--because for two years
she did nothing but spend all of her time forgetting, and this is
where it got her--watching an old man walk down the hallway,
wondering why she took up so little space.