Carpet of Stars This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

August 19, 2011
By , Rego Park, NY
A strange sensation overtakes me as I
stroll down these streets.
Something feels different, can't quite
put my finger on it;
maybe it's that
everything seems bigger.

I remember those summers
of ourselves,
Running,
the unforgiving concrete beneath our feet
like a carpet of stars
And us,
naive enough to believe
we could reach the moon,
if we just kept running

Days descended into nights where
no matter our age
We played those juvenile games
Truth or dare, and our adrenaline would rush
Plotting how to outdo ourselves.

Jump out the window, you would say,
and I would leap into the waiting
embrace of a fire escape,
And within that awning of metal and
rusted red paint
(flakes flitting through the air like
withered red hummingbirds)
I never felt so safe.

Yes, we were unstoppable,
Playing on the uneven pavement;
every crack a story,
every nook and cranny an adventure,
yet unexplored,
waiting to be found.

Gingerly picking up the cigarette butts,
gazing in fascination at the luminescent
glows of ember
the slender swirls of smoke
and almost sad to throw them away.

The chain link fences could not contain us,
nor the locked doors, the graffiti, the strange
people, coming in and out
all hours of the night.
"Mommy," you'd say,
"who are these people?"
and,
"Nothing, honey," she would breath out
in the same breath as those clouds of smoke
and usher you into the next room,
"Just business."

And that time when,
barely thirteen,
one of the men grabbed you
and barked "How much for an hour?"
and you shrank away
and then your mother
raging lioness that she was
put herself between you and him,
livid,
snapped "Do that again,
you're dead."

The train rides seemed to be endless;
and remember when we would
hike to the upper east side
and look at all those people,
women in too-high heels the color
of blood,
listen to them talk about their
summer houses,
wonder what it would be like to have
a house.

Talk about our dreams and life and
how one day we would live in big
mansions, and remember the first time we noticed
the looks those strange men would give
our run-down neighborhood,
the scared faces of the people who
drove past in their fancy cars,
no doubt here accidentally
and wonder what
exactly
we had done
to make them
so
scared.

Our bare feet eating up the sidewalk
at night, as we explored
the depths of our urban jungle,
and remember how exactly at 4 AM
it was so quiet
for once,
so dark and peaceful and if we held our hands
and closed our eyes
and breathed in the tender night air
we felt so alive.

The city was ours,
at least for a little while.

When I was trapped in the apartment
on those rainy days
I would steal the House & Home magazines
from the lady upstairs;
leaf through them,
stare at the smiling white people
in their sprawling suburban homes.

I would look around
at the foreboding gray stairwell,
look outside
at the foreboding gray rainstorm,
look inside
at my delapidated living conditions,
and wonder, just for a second,
how it would be like to live
in a sprawling suburban home
with smiling white people.

I shook my head
turned the page
stayed right where I was.
Because I was right where
I wanted to be.





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