The first time I saw her, she was puffing softly on a cigarette in the girls’ bathroom. She looked all too much the devil incarnate, with tattered jeans and a band shirt that left no doubt at all that their songs would consist of guitar smashing and angsty screaming. She had dyed her hair this brilliant shade of blue that was almost black it was so dark. Upon her exhale, a long strand of smoke twirled from her ruby stained lips and curled around a nose ring that
When they came to build the wall, I played Mingus.
I stood in the blistering sun, watched them arrive, and did my best to blow my lungs clean out. They climbed down from hissing dew-sprinkled trucks, adjusted their hard hats, and went to work setting up the barricades. They ignored me completely.
They didn’t ignore me long. I was off-key, and I was loud. Ain’t always about hitting all the right notes, man. A clarinet’s gotta be raw. Real. None of that philharmonic fast food commercial stuff.
I could almost hear Tony taking the high notes right beside me. He would have, too. He always loved a good
“Repeat after me: I will not hunt alligators while Désirée runs deliveries.”
Léon blinks at me, rich hickory eyes peering up from a face darker than any glancing touch of the sun could produce. He wriggles in a barely-perceptible fashion, bare heels grinding ringlets into the muddy deck, a creature of obstinacy and faux innocence whose smile mystically exiles all suspicion from my mind.
“’course, Dezzy,” he says. “There aren’t any alligators around right now, you know—they ain’t come out ‘til nighttime.”
“They don’t come out ‘til nighttime,” I correct him, swiping a hand over the top of his
At first, I simply sit on the front steps of my building, letting the summer sun bake my knees while I’m planning my getaway, trying to decide which subway to take to get to Caroline’s place faster. I know nobody will miss me. Nobody will even notice. Not like the first time I ran away.
The first time I ran away – OK, maybe I didn’t exactly run away, as the only thing I did was leave my house in the morning to go down to New Utrecht Avenue to sit in a subway station. But I didn’t come back. I wasn’t going to. I sat there all day, until it got late and dark, and eventually even darker and so late that it was time for my mom to come home. And when she did and saw that I’m gone, she called the cops and they found me instantly. Picture a pink haired girl sitting on a bench in an all Hasidic neighborhood. Not a rocket science to spot my cotton candy stack of hair even in the middle of a dark subway station. So I was brought home that same night, safe and sound, and feeling like an
Wade missed the sweat. The sticky air that hugged you like a fat friend. The languid, dirty stench of swampy gutters. Of Bourbon street piss and puke. Of Dat Dogs at three in the morning, and the street mutts that cawed at the Mississippi. The rats and cockroaches scuttling around your shoes. The humidity. The heat.
He missed all of it.
New York was cold. Not just the weather, but the people, too. Hardened pedestrians crushed the MTA platforms like stone statues, eyes glazed onto their phones or the wall or the floor. No smiles. No inward space given away to strangers. They hugged into their
I wake up when the door opens. Instant-awake, alert. I’m staring at the ceiling, at the ornate medallion in its center. Late-night city glow from the windows casts awkward shadows on the plaster. The light clicks on, and I hear a gasp. I feel a sympathetic shot of adrenaline hit my chest. I look toward the door, and there’s a woman there, a stranger. A beauty, too, dressed in a black pants-suit, purse slung over a shoulder, the jacket cut and fitted to her slim waist matador-style. Beneath the jacket, she’s wearing a white blouse with an enormous collar that flares out over her shoulders and breast, like gull wings. Her hair is loose, brown, shoulder-length, streaked with bits of blonde, her face around her dark eyes a mix of fear and puzzlement.
“Who are you?” she says, her hand still on the light switch. “What are you doing here?” Her voice quivers.
I look around. The ceiling looks like my
In the back of a closet, on top of a shelf, under two empty shoeboxes, and behind a small, carry-on bag lurked a humped, black, plastic case. Years of knocking about in the backs of vans and offstage in smoky clubs had etched lines into its surface. Every song had scuffed another memory: Dewey Redman’s “Imagination” or Clifford Brown’s “Night in Tunisia”. An accidental kick from a ska fan had left a dent even after the shell had popped back into place. For twenty years, it had remained closed, a relic of temptation, while inside a saxophone slumbered, waiting for its silent call to beckon again. It was patient. It had time.
Nathan Gold heard the call. It was a Saturday morning in mid-spring as he returned from racing his mountain bike along the Long Beach boardwalk. Pumping the pedals, he glided up the[…] Continue reading »
It was a persistent and gentle nudge—always was. He knew who was prodding him and what she would say without turning, so he continued to run his fingers up and down the keys—there was a major seventh followed by a fifth interval; repeat several times, arpeggiate, transpose—
“Sir? I’m sorry sir—”
The nudging again. He spoke as if distracted—which he was: “Yes?”
“Some of the people are trying to work,” she said.
“Have them come and talk to me,” he replied, and continued to play.
The barista was put-off for a moment, but she jostled him again. “If you could just play a little quieter—”
The words were like daggers. They weren’t new, they weren’t original, and they brought hate like bile to his mind and body; coursing in and throughout him like a thousand
The port of Casablanca was crammed with Vichy officers, soldiers, cops, thieves and criminals. Each night I slept behind sand dunes, and each morning, washed in the freezing sea and shook myself dry in the winter wind. My shirt and trousers were stiff with salt and stuck to my chest, arms and legs. I figured it would be easy to steal a sweater or coat, grab it off a café chair while its owner ate and drank. But each time I stuck my head inside a restaurant and started weaving between tables, the owner threatened to call the cops.
No cops, no officers, no father whipping me, never again. I’d lie low, steal what I needed, and owe no one a damned thing.
Ten days after I arrived in Casablanca, a shipload of
Camp looked through glass doors and across the shoulderless highway. A patch of grass across the road was covered with white trailers washed clean by the rain. He stared out a side window at the brown back of a gas station. A red and yellow sign, mounted so high he had to twist his neck to see it, seemed like it should have been turning but sat still against a gray sky.
What do you find in a bus station? Long waits under dirty fluorescents, grimy floor and seats, gloom on scattered faces. Soup, coffee and candy vending machines. If someone could gather it up, all the pieces a bus station’s handed down through the years, you could start a museum. You could cover the walls with […] Continue reading »