Sunday, November 16, 2014

Lost Lights

There are beautiful things to be seen in this city. The lights are dimmer earlier, and the city shines like a jewel as my train approaches in the early darkness. The days so short that they pass by before I finish working and so out into the dark I traipse, toward home, toward a small dog, toward my little pocket of life in the city. Away from all the little pockets of life that hide out there at the end of different choices and unclear routes.

I do my best to avoid the things about New York that bother me on my walk. Before, when it was still daylight it was not anything to be worried about, but crossing Lexington and 125th always makes for an adventure. On one corner are the prostitutes, on the other corner the meth addicts, down the street a hundred people line up at the street collector to input plastic bottles for change. Quickly I realized that walking down Lexington from 125th was not the best route to take.

After days of trial and error I had worked out a route for myself, one that felt safe, one that avoided the project buildings, and dark alleys, and that is for the most part direct. A few catcalls here and there, a small gang of teenagers being shepherded by a school teacher in the morning, for the most part it is safe.

I want to be comfortably blind to the rest of the city but I see it there, out of the corner of my eye, no matter how hard I try to avoid it.

The men and woman that sometimes pass out on the street in puddles, affected and broken by whatever it is they took to pass the time. I read an article about a reluctantly homeless middle ager who had to admit that the worst thing about being homeless was all the time. When you have no job and no where to live you have all this time. With drugs, with drink, at least you knew you had this thing you were going to do to pass the dead time. I could understand it, can see the attraction, but it bothers me to see the results of it. Not in some bourgeoisie, get a job, stop cluttering my streets, sort of way. It bothers me to see people I can’t save.

It bothers me to see people I could have become. Had it not for one very solid brain, an extraordinarily contrary nature,  and the nascent idea of a plan, this could have been my life. It still amazes me that I have managed to accomplish anything at all.

A week ago, I started my day talking to 1,200 people who hung on every word I said. People came up to it and told me that I had finally “made it.”

The girl who came to watch my dog while I went on my trip looked at my apartment and asked me what I did. In 2,000 words or less I tried to explain, while feeling the entire time like I was rambling, like I was showing off.

“You are really someone, aren’t you? You’ve just, you’ve done it right.”

To myself, I look at her, and I wonder what have I done.

On my walk home on Monday a man lay dead in the street at the doors of my train station. The sky was a twinkling wonder and New York was doing its best to impress with shining. The streets were cluttered with gawkers, people pushed over each other to see what had happened. I did not want to see.

I went around the police and the barricade, eyes forward, cross the street, don’t look around, don’t look back, don’t look down the loop of the past or try to peer around the corners of the future. Stay focused. Let the city sparkle and stay inside that bubble, find beautify somehow in the early night, in the accomplishments I don’t feel exist. The streets are simply there for walking, and you can’t save everyone on them.

Somehow though, I may have saved myself.

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