Thursday, September 10, 2009


#253, Midtown, NYC

They predicted rain; it didn't rain. There was no reason not to do what I did, which was walk through the streets of Manhattan for four hours. No music, though I could have listened to music. No reading on the subway, because I wanted to pay attention. What am I paying attention for? What is it that I am waiting to hear? Of all the days I actually wanted to see Dr. Zizmor and his demonic rainbow and promises of clear skin above the subway doors, and I didn't. Fall half-asleep on the A train waiting for my stop, which could be anywhere. The rush hour lullaby of New York City: stand clear of the closing doors, please.

Why walk for four hours? The east side was giving me no love. The color-stripped, flaking drag of 1st Ave was like a bad dream I've had before; Stuyvesant Square's bright color an improbable piece of taffy. So I walk to the west side, where at least I know I could end up near the high line. I traverse the city on 18th Street for no real reason. I could have chosen 17th or 2nd and it would have been the same. The best recipe for grief is sheer exhaustion. Is the city real? Am I? Are you? Stay away from those thoughts, those abstractions: it's a bad neighborhood. The only thing left to do when you get to 8th Avenue is cross 8th Avenue. That's it. There's nothing more to be done.

Why avoid that street in favor of another? Remember the days when underground, you used to hate the watchful eye mosaics at the Chambers Street stop. Whenever the train pulled into the station, for months, you had to look away. Today you pause at each bike lane as if at a station of the cross. Do you pray to remember or do you pray because you are afraid? Traffic goes by; it pays you no mind. That girl is waiting for you to step out of her line of sight so she can hail her taxi and hit uptown. You smell the shish kabob cart's offerings, listen to its sizzle. Everyone is in such a hurry.

Look up. The answers aren't there, but there is a sign for a bakery with a painted cupcake. There is a glass-fronted condominium you can't imagine who will live in. To look up and not ask why, but only remark, if anyone should ask what's on your mind: I was not expecting sun today.
--For Eliseo


Jackie said...

Therese-- This was absolutely gorgeous. And courageous, really. And wow-- does it capture all that I know about those exact kind of wanderings through NYC-- but I'd never thought to frame it in the way that you did. Made me a bit teary eyed. Thanks for this.

GreensboroDailyPhoto said...

Edmund White (The Flaneur) found a soulmate in you today!

Pierre said...

I've always enjoyed your writing but I think this is probably the best piece I've read. Straight from the heart.

Be good to yourself.

Therese Cox said...

I'm hobbling around like an octogenarian after that walk, but it had to be done. Thanks, all.

Julie said...

Very powerful writing. Your writing is the essence of this blog. You have many powerful shots of text. This is at the top.

Thank you.