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Streaks of a City
Wondering where to go next when there’s everywhere.
Keep walking, follow the lights and just keep walking.
Use the bathroom in a coffee-shop basement, passcode 1985. More rain.
Make it to Bryant Park. The huge Christmas tree is still up after a month, glowing as brightly as ever, and the ice rink is still there, too. People are ice-skating in the pouring rain and it’s magnificent.
An announcement comes on that they have to clear the ice and everyone is laughing.
A foreign, middle-aged couple in Manhattan. He pulling her, in a fur hat and red heels, rushing her along from two steps ahead. They don’t make any of the lights.
A boy, ten or twelve or so, sat next to me on the subway this morning and opened up a newspaper to read – the business section.
The sky never really does get all the way dark, here. It just eats up all the fake light and soaks a deep, dull gray.
“Jesus loves you, Americana!”
"Not only do we have hot chocolate, we have the word of God. Free of charge."
The feeling so stuck in my head of the city is this:
I’ve just gotten off the train, and I’m walking quickly to catch the next, and it’s crowded so I’m straddling the yellow line, and the train is pulling away, and it’s pulling part of me with it but I just keep walking, and the breeze isn’t real but it’s there, and I love the way it pushes long strands my hair forward so I can see the part of me it takes. I watch the lights on the last car disappear into the tunnel and wonder how much of me is gone.
Walking home in the dark and a little Jewish girl springs out of a door up the street. She is running, then walking, then skipping to go somewhere. The streetlights make her shoes look blue, which I know they can’t be (always everything black), but I keep the memory as blue.
It smells like dog piss and the power is out and if I stay angry enough I can block out all the sad.
There’s a pale, stick-thin girl with glitter instead of eyelids, five-inch pastel heels in fishnets and whitey-tidies only.
There’s an equally pale, stick-thin girl in a slinky black dress who turns out not to be a girl but is still prettier than most people and I can’t look away.
I’m standing (now squatting to write this) in the almost-silent subway, and the few people here are watching the lights far away down the tunnel reflect on the tracks and somehow make the garbage puddles beautiful.
Sipping champagne with the writer of some of my favorite words, and a rock star, and several editors of major New York publications. Standing on the roof of our Brooklyn apartment, wishing to see the stars instead of satellites. Starring at myself in a low-lit bathroom of a club in a fur coat and lipstick, then letting a rich friend of a friend pay for a cab ride back with a hundred dollar bill. Watching out the cab window as the city, so famous and terrible and wonderful, blurs by. Always watching from behind glass; how the place moves and breathes and sings and screams without any help from me, spinning and dripping colors more vivid than I knew existed, lit up electric with life, the kind of painful gorgeous life whispering that all the clichés are true, all of this can only be a dream, and the only thing to do is let it happen, watch the storefronts glow, let the pigeons take off at your feet and the taxis pass and beep and swirl and the crazy people talk to themselves without a care. See everything rush past, then not a second later let it all go.
Then the city and all its light fades fast, and the moments are just memories. And you hope you’re not the only one who closes her eyes and can feel them again, can see the city ablaze with worlds she never imagined to be real, who clings to the little bit of magic attached to this night and the rest, this dream, this fragment of a mesmerizing world.