I wake sticky hot in the early afternoon to the sounds of construction next door, Rottweilers barking down below and Chinese workers squabbling as a Puerto Rican woman screams from her window for someone unknown. I take out my earplugs and remove my eye mask as the fan ripples the sheets. I rise, walking naked from the bedroom through the four room rail car apartment, past the windows, heading toward the bathroom at the other end, conscious of possible observers. I make coffee, put on some shorts and a t-shirt and climb the two flights of stairs to the rooftop to look out over the skyline of New York City and pray, quietly watching the planes searching for their way through the blue.
I descend the mustard colored hallway out into the street on my way to work carrying a bag of laundry passing on the stoop the old Puerto Rican matron of our building, “Buenos Dias,” I say. “Hola mijo,” she says nodding her head and smiling. Puerto Rican kids on their way home from school cover the stained sidewalks yelling out. Strong smells assault as I walk: arepas, pizza, and Vietnamese food mixed with stale rain water from the night before. A gleaming car with mirrored windows cruises the narrow block, a repetitive synthetic beat rattling its trunk. The old Puerto Rican men in front of the corner store pay no attention. I walk into the din of the laundromat, the Spanish from the television rising above the drone of the machines. “Es caliente. Mucho trabajo,” I say picking for words. “Ci, ci, Corey. Ci,” they tell me. I walk to the end of the block past the tattoo parlor, the bike store and the funky hair salon, past the bar and yoga studio to the coffee shop where young hipsters in sunglasses sit smoking in the sun.
I exit the suffocating subway on my way home. It’s dark, quiet and peaceful out. The store fronts have all closed their steel eyelids for the night. The neighborhood breathes. A slivered moon sits still above the rustling of the trees. The hipsters are gathering in front of the new Knitting Factory. Bicycles litter the pavement. I push past feeling as though my life may have passed me by as a faint dead smell rises from the street and a pale light rises in the distance from beyond my building.