Monday, October 8, 2007

Wails Through the Night, Moans Through the Day

A couple hours after dark my wife called me from the street, three blocks away from our apartment, and said,

"I heard a voice cry, 'God, please help. Help me. Help!'"

We talked on the phone till she was home and came in the front door. "Did I do the right thing? I'm a girl and was alone." Tremors passed through her body in waves. I couldn't squeeze her hard enough to stop her trembling.

On my way to work the next morning,

A dark man with a dead forest of hair and wearing a ragged dark tunic leans over an egg crate on 6th Avenue. The sun breaches the horizon, I think. "Please help. Give a guy a coin, sir. Give a guy a coin." I eye my cigarette as I pass him. "Bastard," his voice coughs behind me.

Two blocks down, I hear "Tseegaret plees, tsir, tseegaret plees." I turn to see a pretty, petite, French woman dressed in earthy tones and hang my head low as I offer her one.

The bald brute with a goatee behind the visitors' counter sings. He frantically pounds the names of visitor's into the guest database of the law firm. His tie stretches around his neck, his forehead beads with sweat. "Sign in please," he says as suits crowd him. He breaks out into chorus, "Welcome to my nightmare . . . ."

Exhausted after 13 hours work, I drag myself to the subway. I have to stop and tie my shoe three times before I finally reach the stop and sit to wait for the B train to arrive, only to hear: "All local trains canceled." I curse and walk the ten blocks to Columbus Circle. A 300 lb, sixty year old woman with a shaved head and nose ring asks if I can spare some change as her body spills over the concret curb and into the street. I can smell her from six feet away. I toss three quarters into her star-spangled hat and she smiles down at them.

I exit the subway and walk home. I hear four languages spoken in the three blocks. I swing my front door open, strip to my underwear and crash onto the couch. The night winds don't blow the curtains. Sweat pools in the couch. The refrigerator hums. The refrigerator hums. The refrigerator hums.


  1. That helps a lot with the those two extra sentaces. I know it might seem perfunctory, but it connects the first and second parts. I love how in this you seem to let the emotions of the characters drive the piece. Instead of event to event or fact to fact, the reader is moved emotion to emotion. It works! It also lets the reader some how place himself or herself in those same situations.

  2. A nice slice of NYC.

    I've seen the beggars there, Seattle, and even here in AR. At first, I gave to everyone that asked. I mean, that's what the Bible says, right? After awhile, I could tell the unfortunate from the "panhandlers" - the pros. I've adjusted my policy to be - obviously able-bodied - get a job. Obviously not hire-able - you get what's in my pocket.

  3. "I had a little bit of trouble knowing what time of day You wife was walking home, or home much time had passed untill you went out yourself. Might just be my thing though...steven leyva"

    I didn't have a problem at all with the time sequences because I felt the piece was, at its core, a stream of consciousness musing. For me, the structure perfectly suits the subject matter. But I confess to bringing a different sensibilty because, having lived here for over two decades, I understand intimately the writer's musings on the human circus that is New York.

    The thing that is so interesting about New York is that one is either attuned to the many characters (cartoonish and morose) who populate the City, or one is oblivious. After the passage of time, one sadly becomes nearly incapable of either shock or fear. The trembling suffered by the wife is a response that most jaded New Yorkers would likely not even experience. Pleas for a deity's intervention are generally ignored by all within earshot -- nothing more than a flute riff in the symphony of the City. New York has an amazing abilty to cause a hardening of the emotions.