White Castle

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The landscape was sprawling, reaching through murky, gray billows that formed out of 6 AM like a dense, dusty flock of sparrows. Their bodies appeared weighted as they hung loosely below the bowing orange sun. Beaks gaping, they spotted a landing on a decorated thruway. I watched them spiral down to the platform, springing from the lush hemp exterior to a contemplative perch. We ducked behind the elongated wires; it was too soon into our vacation to be stifled by bird s**t, even a ripe, fluid glazing from New York City’s finest. I had spent a week lodged in a damp apartment prior to this moment, and when I finally hit the streets with soft soles I was absolutely terrified.
The city had an inconsistent pulse, beating to a warm, colorful rhythm. It dragged at times when the street was immersed in business and restraint, but it swung when the crowds were swept with dead drunk laughter. It was 2 PM. The sun reflected off of thick columns and bathed the street sparingly. My friend and I were headed straight through the animal that is5th avenue, carrying over the irreducible, vibrant window displays, searching for White Castle. I couldn’t help but imagine the twin steeples of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral ascending towards the lemon sun as dramatically tapered nipples, casting shadows towards the street, cloaking the wanderers while gently folding over their domestic white cuffs. At the corner of 5th avenue and 43rd street a rough character crooked his head to one side, stringing syllables together as he reached into his narrow, box jacket. He worked within his pockets, bending his reedy fingers and with a proud determination and lasting sigh, slid a pack of cigarettes from behind the orange crop fabric. “Do either of you kids have a light?” We were crossing the street, weighed down by this question and the fact that neither of us carried fire.
“Sorry man. Can’t help you with that.”
“F***ing kids.”
He weaseled down 43rd street, his left hand shaking like liquid honey while the other extended towards foreign faces. The hard, yellow cough that preceded him was reverberating between buildings as he stumbled into the daytime mix of foghorns and fleeting satisfaction. As soon as he was gone, a vendor’s thick fist began shaking behind a coal black backdrop. Disorder carried through the streets as shoppers moved briskly from Saks to an evening church service, doubling back afterwards to make sure they didn’t miss any particularly astonishing sales. The streets swelled up and disappeared in a matter of seconds. Dark masses, linked by affection, met and tumbled home to undress, crack the whip and spend too much time talking afterwards. I was getting a taste of the bitter tides of consumerism and the lifestyle that I heard one tween professing to, “Shopping is like my frickin life.” I was convinced that Kate emphasized the word “like” intentionally and I found myself suddenly intrigued by the qualities she favored in men, what made her laugh and how rubber dolls held the secrets to unimaginable weight loss. All my questions were answered in a matter of minutes. The underdeveloped chatterbox was on a constant loop, bragging about how she didn’t plan to get pregnant until she had graduated high school and why Jesus meant “like a lot” to her. We watched as she bopped away, branching out from her pack and nearly wandering into the road. If, by some miracle, she had been struck by a Mack truck I would have been there to testify to her gentle, empathic side, but Jesus had her back.
The city was a dense, diverse jungle of fat and fair, vivid colors that represented life and the hemorrhaging of a great society. It was 5 PM.I could barely hear the roar of traffic through buoyant shoppers, even the architecture started bearing down on me. I walked by massive structures, which were built for profit and to illustrate our progress as a nation. But, they choked the earth and drove away the solitary night. A light brushing of colors and shadows caught my attention. Pigeons were conversing and twisting their narrow conversation into loud coos. I broke away from the thinning air, raising my eyes to find a true sign of life. Trees sprouted in a sparse, anemic existence, but the birds remained sheltered by the Chrysler building, both its subtle, flirtatious curves and stark simplicity. It was 7 PM. Our day ended, when it was practically impossible to see anything beyond the crowds. As White Castle cheeseburgers were being produced, stacked into pyramids and consumed in a swift, exacting cycle, we were rolling around the center of a breeding ground. The burgers still contained limitless flavor, but we were tired enough to turn towards the endless wail of the city and tackle the cold metropolitan without stopping to eat. We retreated into the cold, electric light, grazing delicate hands and furious whispers.
Sunken into a rigid explanation, the structures are bending, cowering towards each other in an attempt to form a symmetrical unity. You wouldn’t know it, but every moment they are immersed in an archaic battle with gravity. In this sense, fundamentalists laid down the twin towers and accomplished in a matter of hours what the buildings knew was inevitable. I like to think that its stern structure rolled to the ground and in its last movement yielded a sigh of relief, a calculated cloud of ash and debris. There was finality in this highly televised moment, social unrest and despondent cries. I saw it as an end to oppression.
The depths of my stomach took wings and decorated the pavement before we made it to the apartment. It was a brilliant pain that overtook me, tickling my throat and waxing and warming the backs of my teeth. A temperate young woman chuckled at my inconvenience. I almost called out her name out in a high, small chirp. I had low blood sugar and was standing motionless under the cities warm headlights, the new moon.





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